Children without father or born through second marriages deprived of birth registrationMany children are stateless as they are unable to get citizenship certificates due to lack of birth registration documents issued by ward office.
Kalpana Thapa wedded a married man of Butwal Sub-metropolis-8 around six years ago. The couple soon had a baby girl, who is now five years old. But Thapa has not been able to register her daughter’s birth since her marriage has no legal standing.
“I visited the ward office of Butwal-8 several times to register my daughter’s birth. But the people’s representatives and the office employees refused to register her birth citing that she was born out of bigamy,” said Thapa.
Thapa attended a public hearing programme organised by the Department of the National ID and Civil Registration in Butwal last week to put her daughter’s case forward. The ward chairman of Butwal-8 Bhim Bahadur Shrestha, who was also in attendance, adamantly refused to entertain Thapa’s request.
“We won’t let her (Kalpana) register her daughter’s birth at the office during my tenure,” said Shrestha. “Her marriage is not legal.”
The Criminal Code of Nepal, which was enforced on August 17, 2018, has banned bigamy in the country. Such marriages, according to the code, are not legally registered. But the birth registrations of the children born through such marriages are not prevented.
However, many women who have children with married men and those whose husbands have gone missing or have abandoned them are unable to register the birth of their children in Rupandehi district.
Sarita Thapa of Butwal-3 has to endure a similar ordeal. She wedded a married man in 2006. Her husband left her after she had two children. Both of her children do not have their birth registration certificates.
“It is me who gave birth to the children but apparently I don’t have the right to register their birth. The officials at the ward office say births could not be registered without the father. One cannot acquire citizenship without a birth registration certificate. I am very worried that my children will become stateless,” said Sarita.
Birth, death, migration, marriage registration and divorce are personal events. The registrations of such personal events are taken as the relation of an individual with the state. So the personal events need to be registered at the ward office within 35 days as per the existing legal provisions.
According to the National ID and Civil Registration Act 2020, the birth of a child can be registered if it is informed by the parents or any other member of the same household. But many children are deprived of birth registration certificates under various pretexts.
Sita Kanauje of Butwal-11 also has similar difficulties. She married a man who identified as Yam Bahadur Khatri of Baglung. Sita gave birth to three children and raised them up. Yam Bahadur had gone to India for work a few years ago and went out of contact. As a result, Sita could not register the births of her children.
“I have a citizenship certificate that I acquired before my marriage. But we don’t have his (Yam Bahadur’s) citizenship. The ward office said births could not be registered without the father’s citizenship. He went missing. I don’t have his citizenship and I don’t know his family members,” Sita said.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015 has included child rights in article 39. Sub-article 1 says that every child shall have the right to name and birth registration along with his or her identity.
Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that a child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, right to acquire a nationality.
“Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all the elements of his or her identity, state parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to reestablishing his or her identity,” reads article 8 of the same convention.
In Nepal, the ward secretary verifies and prepares personal events, including birth registration. Even if a child does not have the necessary documents for birth registration, the people’s representatives like ward chairman, mayor or deputy mayor of a municipality and chief and deputy chief of a rural municipality can register the child’s birth by being an informer.
“The ward chairman and people’s representatives can register a child’s birth based on the citizenship certificate of the mother and other documents. But they refuse to provide birth registration certificates to those children. So many children are deprived of birth registration,” said Sabitra Ghimire, a member of the Lumbini Province chapter of the National Federation of the Disabled.
According to her, many children of internal migration, children whose fathers are missing and children with physical disabilities are deprived of birth registration certificates.
As per the prevailing legal provisions in the country, birth registration certificate is mandatory to acquire a citizenship certificate. Many children are stateless as they are unable to acquire citizenship certificates due to a lack of birth registration documents issued by the ward office.
Dil Kumari Roka has been living in Butwal-4 for the past three decades with her three children. Her husband, who was from Okhaldhunga district, had gone to India a few years ago but never returned.
“My children are without a citizenship certificate as they do not have a birth registration certificate. I met many people and visited various places but to no avail,” said Dil Kumari.
Most of the people’s representatives are well aware about the situation of those children who are deprived of birth registration certificates but they have not taken assertive roles to resolve their issue.
Tirthraj Bhattarai, the general director at the department, said the local level should take initiatives to solve the problem in a practical way.
“The birth of those children born through bigamy or whose father is not ascertained can be registered on the basis of the citizenship certificate of the mother. The ward secretary can be an informer and register the child’s birth in case his or her mother is also unknown,” said Bhattarai. “Birth registration is the basic right of each child. So the birth registration process should not be complicated.”