All births are vital events and must be recorded.
Birth registration, a civil process, ensures a child’s right to identity. The information recorded is necessary for government’s planning of national policies.
Birth registration also serves a statistical purpose. Universal birth registration is an essential part of a system of vital statistics, which tracks the major milestones in a person’s life – from birth to marriage and death.
The large gap between access and utilisation of the service is challenging the Bangladesh government’s commitment to improving birth registration.
So far, only 37 per cent of children below age five are registered. As a result, 10 million Bangladeshi children below the age of five do not exist officially.
Birth registration, a free service, must be completed within 45 days of birth, but many parents are unaware of the importance. They usually apply for birth documents just before a child’s school enrolment, usually at age six.
There is still lack of knowledge on how to register a child. This knowledge varies significantly in rural and urban areas. In hard-to-reach areas, many parents fear the cost of travelling to a government office for issuing a certificate.
Women and mostly adolescent mothers lack access to information on birth registration. Only three out of five mothers of unregistered children report being aware of the service.
But delay and neglect affect the ways children are protected under the law.
Without birth registration, it becomes difficult to protect children against early marriage and child labour. The police face various problems in determining the age of child offenders or victims in the absence of a birth certificate.
Without birth certificate aiding vital assessment, a child will most likely not qualify for security benefits offered to those below the minimum age for criminal responsibility.
Furthermore, lack of registration of migrants from Myanmar and of Bihari children, is an important concern.