What does international law say about birth registration?

International law is very clear about a child’s right to birth registration. Here are some of the international laws that speak to this issue – of which South Africa is a signatory, meaning that it must uphold their provisions and not take actions against their goals and principles.

1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights

This is considered to be the foundation for international human rights law. At Article 15, it states that everyone has the right to nationality, and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 7 states that a child “shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality.”

1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 24(1) states that ‘every child’ has the right to the protection which his status as a minor grant him ‘without any discrimination as to … national or social origin.’

1999 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Article 6 confirms that ‘Every child shall have the right from his birth to a name. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth’ and that ‘Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.’

Lawyers for Human Rights’ book on Preventing Statelessness contains a useful section on International law, should you want to read further.