Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
ACTIVISTS have expressed concern over the increase in the number of children who do not have birth certificates saying it was fuelling child marriages and parents who are not making efforts to acquire the papers are violating the Constitution.
Chegutu West representative in the National Assembly Cde Dexter Nduna, said some parents were not abiding to the Child Registration Act and this was creating problems for the children.
“The reason why we do not have the right age for our children is because they do not have birth certificates, they are not registered. Even when the Child Registration Act provides for the registration of children within six weeks of birth, that is not being adhered to,” he said.
Cde Nduna said the Constitution and Acts of Parliament need to be adhered to so that children are registered at birth, if not then within 42 days of birth so that as they grow up as people who are aware of their age and they are not married off at a young age.
Mr Lizwe Jamela from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Parliament should look at the reasons why parents are failing to register births.
“There is need to look at the reasons why parents are not registering births within 42 days of birth. They should identify the problems that are making them fail to get birth certificates,” he said.
Mr Jamela said one of the biggest reasons in some communities was the issue of access to registry offices.
“Some children are born in very remote areas where the nearest registry office is very far, road infrastructure is pathetic and economic challenges do not allow them to travel. In such cases a child grows up without a birth certificate and can fall into a child marriage especially when parents die and no one is there to ascertain when they were born,” he said.
He added that the other challenge was some parents do not have enough documents.
“Other problems are historic, you find the parents themselves will not have any documentation at all, so their children end up not getting registered too and this hinders progress of that child and is a violation of his or her rights as they need education and it is possible if you have documentation,” he added.
Mr Jamela also said some parents were ignorant of the law.
“We have many children who are born in South Africa and other countries and they are sent home to be with grandparents via omalayitsha (cross border transporters). Sometimes these children end up not being documented because the parent didn’t make an effort to come home and secure these documents. The grandparents or guardians also do not follow up and these children are left undocumented.”
Mr Jamela said some parents also give up on securing the documents after being frustrated at the offices.
“At times people go with incorrect or inadequate documentation such that when they get to registry offices, they are turned away after queuing and will be so frustrated they would not not go back,” he added.
The lawyer encouraged parents to seek the important documentation for their children to avoid problems for the children in future. He also called upon the Registrar-General to increase efforts to carry outreach programmes that seek to educate communities on the importance of registering births, where they can go to register, how they do it and what documents they should have in order to be able to register. Some parents also shun registering their children after failing to get birth records at hospitals because the health institutions refuse to release birth records to parents owing them.