"The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right to have a name, to acquire a nationality, and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents" (Article 7, Convention on the Rights of the Child)
Apparently, one third of all new-borns in the world (that's about 40 million babies!) do not exist. That includes a whopping 60% of children in Asia, who are all 'unregistered' as individuals and who are in effect, little more than a figment of many oriental person's imaginations.
As certified citizens, you and I have limited comprehension of what it would be like to not have access to a Birth Certificate or the consequences thereof. The endorsement of 'A Child's First Right', believe it or not, is imperative to the wellbeing of a nation. Without documented evidence of one's birth, there is really no proof of ones existence. Scary.
Birth registration automatically bestows rights and privileges. A mere piece of paper, verifying you are flesh and blood, can prevent exploitation from traffickers, slave traders, unscrupulous employers, militias, organised crime affiliates and other horrific inhumane predicaments. To add to this, under International Law, undocumented children are technically classified as 'adults', and do not qualify for special protection as juveniles. All the baneful deeds mentioned above, as you read this, in several third world countries.
As you can imagine, for those without the privilege of being able to verify themselves with a birth certificate, the chances of being exploited or abused by corrupt forces who prey on the innocence of younger children, skyrockets.
Here's an example of a boy living in Indonesia: Ferry, estimated to be 13 or 14 years old, was a victim of a conspiracy to protect a murderer. He was not
allowed a defence by legal institutions in Indonesia because he didn't have a birth certificate to prove his age or identity. Tried and convicted as an adult he was confined to a cell with adult prisoners. Eventually Ferry was released on July 31st 1999 after one year of imprisonment.
Incredibly enough, this case and thousands like it are currently taking place, a major humanitarian problem. Imagine growing up feeling little more than a hologram, not having the power to corroborate your own profiled existence?! We all have our days of feeling transparent, BUT at least we have the ability to open our own bank account!
It seems feeble, that an institutionalised record of a child, should be the bedrock of ones being. However, in order for a nation to happily progress, there must be access to a conglomeration of trustworthy statistics based on every individual. Then ideally, the government can employ the data to make the accurate budgetary and infrastructure measures, for it's people. Adequate educational, health and recreational facilities simply cannot be provided, if the numbers of existing children is to remain both ignored mystery and a complete mystery.
The team at Plan International are on the case! Arm in arm with UNICEF, they aim to create a surge of global awareness through a major 'Birth Registration Rights' campaign. The campaign is now well underway and there is hope for 100% birth registration by the end of 2000. The focus of 'Phase One' is in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. 'Phase Two' will target the regions of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Already there have been positive results towards promoting birth registration ~ as a 'Child's Right' ~ NOT an optional legal or administrative task.
Confused as to why children are not being registered? It seems, the more remote or resource deprived a region is, the lower the birth registration rates are. These following reasons have been pinpointed as explanations:
* Inaccessibility to Registration Facilities
* Lack of Resources in Minority Regions
* Exorbitant Fees
* The Stigma surrounding Illegitimacy
* Language Barriers
* Lack of Awareness & Motivation
* Parents without Residence Permits
Thanks to organisations such as Plan International, Government authorities are steadily beginning to spark interest in implementing systems that are compatible with universal human rights standards, and which demands the registration of every child born. New civil registration laws are now in the process of being cemented AND global awareness is escalating. Plan International will not sleep soundly at night till all children are granted unrestricted access to their very own birth certificate, and the right to feel human. A proven identity, is one ticket to freedom.
To help this worthy cause and to find out more about Birth Right Registration, and other Plan International campaigns, please visit http://www.plan.org.au