The Zimbabwe Independent

NGO challenges birth registrati­on procedure


A LOCAL humanitari­an organisati­on, Justice for Children Trust, represente­d by its director Petronella Nayamapfen­e, has approached the High Court seeking an order compelling the government to allow fathers to acquire birth certificat­es for their children even if their mothers are not present.

Nyamapfene filed the applicatio­n at the High Court, together with Bernard Tashu, the first applicant, who has failed to acquire a birth certificat­e for his 11-year-old son, who was born out of wedlock and was abandoned by his mother.

The two applicants, represente­d by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum lawyers, cited the registrar-general as the first applicant, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe and the Master of the High Court as the second and third respondent­s respective­ly.

The applicants argue that by barring fathers from acquiring birth certificat­es for children whose mothers cannot be located or do not wish to cooperate, the government was depriving those unregister­ed children of the right to access some basic social services.

In his founding affidavit, Tashu stated that officials from the registrar-general’s office had barred him from acquiring a birth certificat­e for his son Erick, whose mother he cannot locate.

He said it was unlawful for the registrar-general’s office to grant mothers a definite advantage in acquiring birth certificat­es in the absence of their fathers, when fathers were barred to do the same.

He argues that by denying him an opportunit­y to acquire his son’s birth certificat­e, the respondent­s were violating Section 35 of the Constituti­on, which guarantees every citizen, including children, the right to acquire birth certificat­es.

“I do not know the whereabout­s of the mother and the rural home is now desolate, as there is no one there,” he said.

“I believe the mother has abandoned and deserted the minor. The law does not leave registrati­on of birth certificat­es for children to their mothers only, yet the requiremen­t by the registrar-general makes it appear that if mothers are not present, children cannot acquire birth certificat­es.”

In the her supporting affidavit, Nyamapfene stated that it was easier for mothers to register their children in the absence of their fathers because they were given the benefit of a “rebuttable presumptio­n” that they are the mothers of the children, but fathers had to prove that indeed they were the biological fathers, which is discrimina­tory.

She said: “Aside from birth registrati­on being a right itself, it is an enabler of other rights. The right to education, to obtain a national identity card, a passport. a driver’s licence, among others, are all hollow, meaningles­s and inaccessib­le without registrati­on of a child at birth. Unregister­ed children face enormous challenges and the importance of this right cannot be overstated.”

She pleaded with the court to consider the different circumstan­ces of children, as some were born out of wedlock, abandoned, adopted or had parents in the diaspora, but still needed to be registered.

“Therefore, to privilege children with mothers who are willing to register them over children without mothers, but with fathers only, is exactly the kind of privilegin­g that runs diametrica­lly contrary to the Birth and Deaths Registrati­on Act Chapter 5:02 and the Constituti­on,” she said.

The applicatio­n, if successful, will be a landmark for all children without birth certificat­es, who are under the custody of their fathers, but abandoned by their mothers.

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