Tuesday, 9 November 2021

BIRTH CERTIFICATE VICTORY FOR FATHERS

A number of experts have expressed their views following a landmark ruling saying fathers have the legal right to obtain birth certificates for their children without the mother in circumstances where the mother has abandoned or deserted the child.

In a judgment handed down on Monday, the Registrar of Births and Deaths was ordered by Harare High Court judge, Justice Owen Tagu, to allow fathers to apply for and obtain birth certificates for their children born out of wedlock if the mothers deserted or abandoned the children.

The Registrar was not allowing fathers to secure birth certificates for their children without a marriage certificate or the mother of the child.

The judgment came after Bernard Tashu together with child rights activist Petronella Nyamapfene approached the High Court to compel the Registrar to comply with the Birth and Death Registration Act which allows fathers to apply for birth certificates for their children in circumstances where the mother abandoned or deserted the child.

Bulawayo-based lawyer Mr Lison Ncube said the High Court is the upper guardian of all minors and what the High Court considers is the best interest of the child.

“I personally think the judgment is in good chase because it is putting the best interests of the child above everything else. It is also helping children who come from these circumstances who also have the right to identity. I totally support it on the basis that it has put the best interest of the child at the forefront and it has made sure that children are not prejudiced of getting the necessary paperwork simply because of various family problems or circumstances they find themselves in,” said Mr Ncube.

He said it was a judgment in the right direction as far as assisting children in getting the required identity which is protected in terms of the Constitution.

“It must be a good day in history for us to be having judgments of that nature,” said Mr Ncube.

Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender national director Mr Walter Vengesai said children should not be disadvantaged in terms of procuring important documents because of the unavailability of one parent.

“We welcome this development because it’s in the best interest of the child for either of the parents to be able to procure those important documents. We hope that it will enable lots of children without birth certificates to get those documents so that they can sit for exams and do other important things that require those documents,” said Mr Vengesai.

Amakhosikazi FM director and women’s rights activist Mrs Busi Bhebhe said fathers are entitled to equal rights as mothers.

“It’s a fair law given the equality we’ve always been crying for in terms of human rights. Fathers are entitled to equal rights as mothers. They need to have access to their children and children need to be able to get what’s duly theirs, be it from a mother or father. They have to be able to have access to their documents without infringement because one parent is not there,” said Mrs Bhebhe.

She continued: “Where I seem to have a problem is that the ruling didn’t seem to define what abandonment is. My question is, what’s the definition of abandonment because a father may choose to relocate with the child say from the rural areas to the city or vice versa because he’s the breadwinner and the mother failing to equal the financial travel costs may be lied about to say they have abandoned the child.

Or a father may chase away a mother through gender-based violence or the mother runs away to safety and it is defined as abandonment.”

Mrs Bhebhe said the ambiguity in terms of defining abandonment could be used broadly to disenfranchise mothers of their rights over their children.

“It can make a father deprive a child of access to him/her by a mother. Also, is this law going to specify who is considered a father — does it come with a DNA test to prove they’re the real father because with the mother it’s easier. She carried this child for nine months, there’s proof that she carried this child; the clinics have given her a birth record and have said indeed she is the mother.

“How does the father substantiate himself without any biological proof linking him to the child? If those questions are specified in the law, then it’s a fair law. It must be clear how they’re going to roll it out to the rest of us,” said Mrs Bhebhe. Chronicle

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