Universal Children’s Day – Children in Pakistan have the right to be counted
Islamabad, 19 November 2011 – With an estimated 3 million children born in Pakistan each year not officially existing, UNICEF is calling for all births around the country to be registered so that children’s rights are protected.
“It is absolutely vital for every child’s future well-being and the fulfillment of their rights that they are registered at birth,” said Karen Allen, UNICEF Pakistan Deputy Representative.
The theme of this year’s Universal Children’s Day on Sunday, 20 November, ‘Make Every Child Count’, highlights that birth registration is the first right of every child born in Pakistan.
Birth registration is important because it establishes the existence of a child under law and provides the foundation for safeguarding many of the child’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child has the right to be registered at birth without any discrimination.
Figures for birth registration in Pakistan paint a worrisome picture for children’s rights. According to UNICEF’s 2011 State of the World’s Children report, only 27 per cent of total births in Pakistan between 2000 and 2009 were registered. Results of other official surveys indicate the situation is worst in Balochistan and FATA, where just one per cent of children are registered at birth. The figures for birth registration in other areas are still low and in need of improvement: Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (20 per cent); and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir (24 per cent); while Punjab has a higher rate (77 per cent) and is closer to universal registration.
“The reasons for such low birth registration are complex and varied, including a lack of awareness of the importance of registration, cost factors, and geographical distance,” said Ms Allen. “But whatever the reasons, we must see a change for the better and soon. Without birth registration, children may be denied access to things that most of us take for granted, such as an ID card, passport, a bank account, the ability to vote, and access to education, health and other social services.”
“Without such registration, it is almost impossible to fully protect the rights of adolescents, or to prosecute cases of unlawful premature entry into adult roles such as marriage, or the labour force, when the exact age of the child or adolescent cannot be determined. In addition, birth registration provides the Government with essential population information needed to plan for community amenities like schools and hospitals. It is every child’s right to have their birth registered and for children to take their rightful place in Pakistan society,” said Ms Allen.
UNICEF Pakistan supports campaigns that encourage parents to register their children and works in partnership with the Government to expand resources devoted to birth registration.
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