The Grace of the 12-month Grace period for Late Registration of Birth

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The Scalabrini Centre and Partners Appreciate the Shift with Late Registration of Birth to 12 months and call for its continuation or expansion beyond 12 months 

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As a result of the pandemic there was a shift in the policy from requiring birth registration within 30 days to birth registration within 12 months, before increasing requirements in the late registration of birth process. This is an important step in ensuring the Constitutional rights realisation for every child in South Africa. 

The Scalabrini Centre has engaged recently with in excess of one thousand clients including numerous South Africans and migrants all of which were/are struggling with the late registration of birth process and the additional administrative burden placed upon parents seeking to register their child’s birth once the 30-day period for registration came to an end.  

In some such cases despite concerted and repeated efforts registration was not feasible within 30 days and thereafter late birth registration was not possible in a period of 3 to 5 years after the child was born. Children struggled and struggle to access school in the absence of a birth certificate. The shift to 12 months for birth registration is a great thing for both South Africans and non- South Africans. Home Affairs should continue with the 12 months period or even expand it further and the Scalabrini Centre would like to appreciate the wisdom in extension the period as this increases the dignity and rights realisation in the pursuit of the best interests of the Child.  

We have found in practice that most parents whose children fell under the late birth registration process, which arises after 30 days, are the parents that did not have documentation at the time of the birth of the child. Both South Africans and Non- South Africans were and are experiencing the same issue. The extension to 12 months allows parents sufficient time to apply for the right document such as: South African ID documents, visas, asylum seeker visas and refugee status documents. One of the advantages of the 12 months birth registration period is it has and will continue to decrease the number of children in the late birth registration process, which takes years for children to get their birth certificates.  

30 Days birth registration causes a lot of late birth registration due to the lack of documentation. Birth registration after 30 days deprives children of the right to identity, the right to nationality, and puts them at risk of statelessness. According to section 28 of the Constitution of South Africa ‘every child has the right to a name and a nationality from birth’. In South Africa, these rights can only be brought to life through the possession of a birth certificate. Additionally, birth registration after 30 days and the failure to issue birth certificates makes it difficult for children to access to education, health care and social services. We encourage parents and care givers to register the birth of their children as early as possible but appreciate the challenges faced in the absence thereof. 

The Bill of Rights sets out a series of fundamental rights including the right to equality, to dignity, to administrative justice and the rights of the child and these can only be truly accessed with valid documentation (such as a birth certificate) that proves the person’s nationality, and therefore their legal and administrative existence in South Africa. Section 28 of the Constitution of South Africa requires that the ‘best interests of the child’ is the priority in all decisions and matters concerning the child.  

A 12-month birth registration period or longer is in the best interest of the child because within a year the child will have a birth certificate compared to waiting for years to have a birth certificate languishing in the late birth registration process. We appreciate the rights protection afforded to South African and to Migrant Children alike and hope that this will continue and be improved upon in years to come.