Why is birth registration so important?

In South Africa, a birth certificate is vital to access the following rights:1

  • A right to a name and nationality, as set out at Section 28 of the Constitution. Without a birth certificate there is no way to prove a child’s nationality,
  • A right to basic education, as set out in South Africa’s Bill of Rights. Schools are becoming increasingly strict around enrolling students who cannot provide documentation,
  • A right to healthcare, as set out in South Africa’s Bill of Rights. Healthcare – especially for children over the age of seven, becomes increasingly difficult to access if the child does not have a birth certificate.
  • Access to other services such as child protection mechanisms, and other state services.

Children’s rights are specifically applicable to those persons under the age of eighteen. Without a birth certificate, it is not possible to prove a child’s age (unless an age assessment is completed by a medical practitioner) and therefore children near the age of eighteen might well be treated as adults. This is especially problematic in cases of detention and deportation.

The lack of a birth certificate has negative effects on many areas of a child’s life, aside from those stated above. A person’s fundamental rights to equality, human dignity, freedom and security of person, and fair labor practices1 are all compromised when that individual has no documentary proof of where, when and to whom they were born.

Aside from this, birth registration is now required as a prerequisite to access an ID – it is at birth registration that an ID number is allocated to an individual and he or she is added to the National Population Register. Children who should be issued and ID number – such as those children born to South African citizens – will face barriers to accessing ID documentation later in life, and will struggle to complete

You can watch a video about birth registration here.

  1. These rights pertain to Sections 9, 10, 11, 12 and 23 of the Constitution, accordingly.