Count Every Child - why birth registration matters so much

On November 16, Plan International are hosting a one-day conference focusing on the necessity on registering children at birth.  Read more here:….

Two startling facts: 64% of births are not registered in the South Asia region.  51,000,000 children a year around the world are not registered (UNICEF 2007).

And this is why it matters (taken from the Plan website above):

  • Unknown numbers of children orphaned by AIDS are being denied their right to inherit parental property because they do not have a birth certificate providing legal proof of their identity and family ties.
  • In many countries, sexual relations with a girl under 16, with or without her consent, are regarded as rape. Yet, without a birth certificate to confirm a girl's age and to prove she is underage, it is hard to obtain a conviction.
  • In Bangladesh, marriage of a child under 18 is prohibited by law. However, sometimes declaring the age of the bride is enough for a marriage to take place. The incidence of early marriage could be reduced if all marriage registrars asked for birth certificates and proof of age.
  • The International Labour Organization estimates that around 246 million children are currently involved in child labour worldwide. Of these, 179 million are exposed to the worst forms of child labour. Establishing a legal minimum age for work is an important first step but, without an effective birth registration system to back it up, it is difficult for government agencies acting to eliminate such practices to prove how old a child is.
  • Research for Plan Nepal has revealed that police were unwilling to trace a girl known to have been trafficked because she had no means of proving her age, nationality or even her existence. There are currently an estimated 200,000 women and girls missing from Nepal, believed to have been trafficked to India.
  • A Plan commissioned survey of children in rural schools in Ghana found that many children – even literate ones – freely admitted that they did not know their age. Eighty per cent of those who did give their age were found to be incorrect when their answer was compared to the date of birth given in the school register, which also tended to be incomplete.
  • In Cameroon, the Baka Pygmies are significantly under-represented in the 80 per cent national birth registration rate: a recent census showed that up to 98 percent of children in Baka communities do not have a birth certificate. Plan Cameroon has been working with indigenous populations to help them gain official recognition from the government.
  • At the Third Asia Regional Conference on Birth Registration (January 2003) an example was given of a child of nearly 18 years sentenced to the death penalty. His lawyers attempted to relieve him of the sentence under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, he could not prove his exact date of birth due because he didn’t have a birth certificate.


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