Children should not suffer

Children should not suffer from identity crisis

Birth Registration of children is a means to access the basic services and facilities available at the community level to nurture and exercise their rights. It is the key to ensuring the rights of the child.

A birth certificate serves as a legal age verification document acknowledging the individuals existence and status before the law. It is urgent that boys and girls to be identified as the citizens of the country. Birth Registration is now compulsory for every citizen to receive sixteen basic services in the country.

These are; passport, marriage registration, admission to school and college, applying for job, driving license, over ID, land registration, opening a bank account, import and export license, getting water, gas and electric connections, tax identification number(TIN), contractor license, approval of the home design, vehicle registration, trade license and getting on the national voter list.

Over the years we have many achievements in the country in the field of child rights situations i.e. enrollment in the education/ schooling especially girl child enrollment, death of new born has been reduced, maternal mortality rate reduced, the immunization program 100% successfully implemented, birth registration and on line birth registration have been a big issue in this country.

Birth Registration provides us vital statistics at the national level in order to make an appropriate planning, monitoring program, implementing and budgeting. This helps enabling the children and adolescent to fulfill their rights.

Birth Registration is free of costs, but it has been reported many times we our staff went to their office, for the birth certificate they demand fee to issue a Birth certificate. Since Aparajeyo-Bangladesh has been working with the disadvantaged children & we do not have any budget line to give the fees for birth certificate therefore we faced huge problems to obtain a certificate. Many others also face the same experience.

It is now a day's an open secret. Further for many parents/guardians who came from very distance or from hard to reach areas they are reluctant to go to the registration office because it is really costly for them for travel local transportation and registration fees as well for the office.

Many parents do not see/understand the importance of reporting Birth and obtaining certificates for their children within 45 days. They do so only when they need a birth certificate to provide the child's identity and age that in most of the time of school enrollment at age 6 plus.

On the other hand many of the parents do not choose the name of the children within 45 days of birth therefore it delays reporting birth of a child. In general the reporting task is perceived as the responsibility of the father or the male members of the family.

If the men are out of the village or away from the house then there will be no follow up at all for the birth certificate reporting to the authority. Even once the birth certificate is issued or during issuing time the parents or officials may create pressure to change the date of Birth because of the conflicting ages for the children with regard to school enrolment and sitting for examinations or to "Legitimize" the child marriage.

As per Government/ UNICEF 2015; In Bangladesh the percentage of children younger than age 5 whose births are reported has risen sharply in recent years, remains low, at 37%, Overall birth certificates were actually viewed among only 21.3% of children. Improvements have been noted in all Divisions. Rangpur as new formed Division is the best performing with almost half of children registered as aged under 5 years.

Registration of Birth becomes more likely as a child grows older and peaks around age 4 at 50.5%. No significant variation in birth registration exists depending on the sex of the child but urban children are more likely than rural children to have their birth registration 42.9% versus 35.5%. Registration of Birth is strongly associated with household living standard and mother's education and awareness.

The lack of adequate knowledge on how to register a child can present another major obstacle to the fulfillment of a child's right to identity. Knowledge about registration varies significantly between urban -72% and rural 57.9%. However the committee on the rights of the child has expressed its concern that Bangladesh has only agreed in principle to issue birth certificate to all registered as refuses in the country.

It particularly cited the need to uphold the rights of Rohingya children from Myanmar and Bihari children, all of whom have difficult or no access to social services. Bangladesh is not a party to any international or regional treaty relating to refuses, not does it have legislative or administrative provisions for refugees.

Since the local government authority particularly the counselor's office is responsible to ensure birth registration for the child, death registration for the entire locality. But the harsh truth is that birth registration was and will be the issue and that always lag behind in the country.

This is due to the human resource of local government not adequate, they are not adequately skilled, and their knowledge is not enhanced at the optimum level. They are not motivated and devoted to carry forward this responsibility as their priority and well as the national priority.

Generally the local government authority does not have a proper job description and job to do on daily basis, like routine job and the job they have to do as some jobs will come and or shifted in their shoulder automatically. The local government authority is also believe that they have a long list to do every day as the local representatives which resulted slowed down the child birth registration thus it get less priority.

There are cases that the guardians or authority falsify birth registration certificate for the sake of early/ marriage, or engaged them in the most of hazardous forms of child labour. Bureaucracy, red tape file, and long queue for birth registration have been the most hindrance in the country. Although it has been declared nationally that birth registration would be free of cost, but there are costs involved in it which is not shown formally.

It also cannot be seen by the general people from any angle or in black and white. Therefore birth registration needs to give high attention and priority in the country to reduce many untoward situations for the children and ensure their protection.

Why birth registration is important? UNCRC: It was ratified in the year 1989 by the Government of Bangladesh where child is defined- human being below 18 years will be treated as child. The then children act 1974 defines children will be treated below 16 years.

The then Children act 2013 (at the amendment stage) will defines children will be treated below 18 years. Below 9 years child will not be carry any criminal responsibility. Even (in the article 82) defining 12 years (83) children will not be treated or carry and criminal responsibility if the child does not know the issue clearly and its consequences and or the result of the act.

It was also said that if the child has committed any petty crime for the first time that will be given priority to resolve the issue through the juvenile justice court or through community based diversion.

Expectedly, children act 2013 will give high emphasis that the child below 18 years if they committed any crime or are in contact on conflict with the law they will be give high responsibility to negotiate the problem through diversion at the country level through which the juvenile delinquent will get the opportunity to correct themselves, they can be withdrawn from the hazardous forms of child labour, trafficking and/or any from any bonded labour situation while supporting them through alternative options of their life they can be educated, skilled and productive citizen for the country. Further they will be able to contribute to improve their life contribute to the family constructions building society and will be the resource for the state not at all Border.

But due to falsify birth registration they people produce birth certificate and put the marriage over 18 and conduct the marriage quickly behind the eyes of the local authority and get the official formal documents from the marriage register. This is also a huge problem still the country has been facing. In this circumstances ``Birth registration'' has to be given high importance and there has to have some system in place for monitoring the situations in order to overcome the barriers.

Over the years there has been are increased understanding country wide as well as world wide of the vulnerability of children and the consequent need for the protection of the child rights and ensure everything that is possible for the best interest for the children.

The constitution of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh makes provision for children's right/ interest to be given priority, correctly recognizing children as being us under privileged and vulnerable section of the society.

Only 3 years after the liberation of our country the Children Act, enacted in 1974 was drawn up exclusively to address the situation of children who find themselves come with the contact /conflict with the law in whatsoever the manner. Aparajeyo-Bangladesh has been implementing one project supported by European Union to improve the institutional responses to the children in contact /conflict with the law in Bangladesh.

This project has been experiencing with one thousand children's family reintegration through diversion by community child welfare committee and the child welfare desk at the police station and over 300 children's cases dealt by the panel of lawyers on voluntary basis.

These children are from the most disadvantaged group either they are homeless, parentless and victim of in country migration. Many of them are lost and or on move and cannot remember their native village and permanent address thus it has been hindering to get their Birth Registration Certificates from the local authority at our working areas.

The area of juvenile justice in Bangladesh is regulated by a number of laws, including the children Act 1974 (which is replaced by Act-2013), Children's Rules -1976, the Bangladesh penal code-1860, Majority Act-1875, Families Laws ordinance, 1961, Family courts ordinance- 1945 for custody maintenance, Guardians and wards Act-1890, Vagrancy Act-1983, Railway Act-1890, Juvenile Smoking Act-1919, while child workers are governed under the labour-code-2006.

Family laws: Child marriage restraint Act-1929 (which is replaced by the draft Child marriage Restraint Act -2017 retaining the legal marriage age at 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Nevertheless, it has been found that birth registration certificates are often issued increasing the age of girls.

To prevent the tendency of increasing the age of girls in the certificates, the UNCRC committee and UPR have recommended that the Government of Bangladesh takes all necessary measures to increase the birth registration rate by establishing mobile registration office in the rural sectors and to undertaking a campaign aimed at registering all children who have not yet been registered and who do not have birth certificates.

The law governing children as scattered and varied. As a result, there are confusions and inconsistencies in the legal framework. One example of this is with reserved to the age until which a person is considered a child in the eyes of the law.

This definition varies from law to law, while the majority Act 1875 is very confusing which gives the two definitions in the same section for when a person will be demand to have attend majority, as either 18 years or 24 years of age, depending as the circumstances relating to guardianship of property. But generally a person shall attain of majority on reaching the age 18 years.

Due to such inconsistencies in the different laws, the legal framework in relation to the children has remained very unclear, which is made ever worse by differing interpretations given in the case law.

The overreaching principle of the convention is that in dealing with children the best interests of the children should be principle consideration. Where the child is capable of forming his or her own views, the state is obligated to ensure that these views are taken into account in matters affecting the child and that they are given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. This provision will be relevant for instance, in situation relating to the custody of a victim child.

A child is defined under the national child policy- 2011 as any persons- under the age of 18. A number of statutes have been enacted- where a child has been defenders any person under the age of 18 years.

Domestic violence Act-2011 and vagrancy Act-2011 the NCP-2011 ensures the gradual elimination of child labor. It makes refrain to the National Child Labor Elimination Policy-2010 and grantees that number of necessary steps set out in the MCLEP-2010 will be carried out.

The term 'Child' and 'Adolescent' have been placed differently in different national and international documents and in the legal instrument of Bangladesh. As the age is the decisive in determines the definition of a child. It would have been much better if a uniform age of a child adolescent could have been determined in all national documents. Thereby, it has been the demand from all levels of people, professional activists of the society.

Bangladesh labor Act (2006) Act (XLII of 2006) also defining "Child" and Adolescent on the basis of age. As per the section 2(8) of the Act a person who has attained the age of 14years but below the age of 18 years is considered to be an Adolescent and as per the section 2(63) a person not attaining the age of 14 years defined as a Child.

The government has recently passed the Domestic Workers Protection and welfare Policy-2015. This also followed by the same definition of the age group of Child, adolescent as a domestic worker as per the Labour Act 2006 it referrers the age of 12, 14 and 18 years of age as Child and Adolescent.

However, the classification of Child Labour, Working Children, Domestic worker, etc, these terms used based on the condition of employment, i.e. remunerations, working hours, working environments and other relevant facilities that should be determined during the employment as the terms and condition.

Birth and Death Registration Act-2004 is a major safeguard for the protection of the rights of Children. This Act has made it compulsory to register the birth of a Child which would resolve the future complexity relating to the determination of the age of a child.

The writer is Executive Director, Aparajeyo-Bangladesh