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‘Parents ignorant of birth certificate registration process’

Justice for Children Trust (JCT) has noted that most cases of undocumented children in Bulawayo are as a result of parents who are ignorant of the processes of acquiring birth certificates for their children.

JCT ensures access to justice to and the enjoyment of human rights by all children below the age of 18 years through the provision of legal aid to children in difficult circumstances, empowering the children and adults on child protection laws and child rights and responsibilities, and research on issues affecting children and advocating for reform.

Speaking at a free legal clinic outreach programme in Nkulumane on Wednesday, JCT programmes officer, Tafadzwa Mutsambiwa said lack of securing registration records limits the children`s access to clinical services. 

“One of the problematic areas when it comes to the issue of birth registration of children is that some parents do not have identity documents and birth certificates. 

“So, you find that we have to assist parents first before having to assist children to secure birth certificates,” Mutsambiwa said. 

Section 35 (3) ( c ) of the Constitution stipulates that all Zimbabwean citizens are entitled to rights and benefits such as rights to birth certificates and other identity documents issued by the State.

She said besides parent’s failure to secure these documents, the other hindrance to children acquiring birth certificate is that maternity hospitals withhold birth records for defaulting parents.  

“The other hindrance to childbirth registration is that some hospitals are still withholding the birth records on the basis of outstanding hospital areas. 

“Even though they know what the policy says about giving birth records to mothers but they are still withholding these birth records even though certain policies have been put in place, they however still defy laid down policies.

“There is need to engage with these hospitals so that they release these documents, yes we encourage people to pay the outstanding hospital bills but we are saying there should be a route taken to release these documents,” said Mutsambiwa.

She said hospitals to agree on payment plans with parents without violating a child`s right to identity.  

Mutsambiwa said the other category of children affected are those born outside Zimbabwe. 

“The other category of children born outside the country, you find that most of them have entered Zimbabwe illegally as they do not have the required documents such as health cards and birth records,” Mutsambiwa said. 

“Once they have entered the country illegally, they need an admission of guilt fine and this fine is paid at the border post or the point of entry which is Beitbridge.

“Most parents can however not afford to travel to Beitbridge to get that admission of guilt or even pay the fine that is required,” She said. 

Mutsambiwa said there is need to lobby the government to relax these conditions to minimise the number of children without identification documents.

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