Civil Rights - Progress and Disparity

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Birth registration: A first step

Birth registration is the community's first recognition of a child's legal existence. Children have a right to a birth certificate, and in many cases they must be registered to gain access to the country's basic services.

In many countries, registration systems are not yet fully implemented, forcing governments to overlook their own rules requiring proof of birth to access services. This is especially the case outside cities, where rates of registration typically are lower. For example, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan and Uganda officially require a birth certificate for school enrolment but do not generally enforce that regulation in rural areas. In a number of countries, including Colombia and Turkey, the birth registration rate noticeably increases when children reach school age because they must be registered to enrol in school.

But even when children do receive services in the absence of a birth certificate, the lack of registration means that their needs are not anticipated. They are more likely to miss out on school and health care and they are more vulnerable to exploitation.

A birth certificate is required for:*

  Immunization Health care School enrolment Marriage
Algeria No No Yes Yes
Argentina No No Yes Yes1
Bangladesh No No No No
Brazil No No Yes Yes
China No No Yes2 Yes2
Colombia Yes Yes Yes Yes
Congo, Dem. Rep. No No Yes No
Egypt Yes No Yes No
Ethiopia3 - - - -
India No No Yes No
Indonesia No No Yes Yes
Iran No No Yes Yes
Iraq Yes No No No
Kenya Yes No Yes No
Mexico Yes Yes Yes Yes
Morocco No No Yes Yes
Myanmar Yes No Yes No
Nepal No No No No
Nigeria No No Yes -
Pakistan No No Yes No
Peru No No Yes Yes
Philippines No No Yes Yes
Russian Fed. Yes Yes Yes No
South Africa No Yes Yes Yes
Sudan No No Yes No
Tanzania No No Yes No
Thailand4 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Turkey No No Yes Yes
Uganda No No Yes No
Ukraine Yes Yes Yes No
Uzbekistan Yes Yes Yes No
Viet Nam No No Yes No
TOTAL 10 7 28 14

* Among countries with 75% of the world's under-18 population.
1 A birth certificate is required only when the person is under the legal age of marriage: 16 for girls, 18 for boys.
2 An identification card is required but a residence card may suffice.
3 No registration system.
4 A house registration card is needed for most services and a birth certificate is needed to obtain a house registration card. A child may attend school but cannot receive a graduation certificate without a registration card.

Source: UNICEF, 1998.

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