The article “Ruling on fathers brings joy to teen” (Sunday Times, 08/02/2015, p. 12) by Aarti J Narsee takes the time to expose as concise and candidly as possible the limitations in the Births and Deaths Registration Act.
She does this through a story of 15-year-old girl who has had to go through a legal battle to have the name of her father listed on her official documents. The girl and her mother had to undergo this battle because the Births and Deaths Registration Act only permits a man to be registered as the father of a child of unmarried parents at his request and with his consent.
This raises many concerns, most of which Narsee deals with in her article. First and foremost, this Act is not consistent with the best interests of the child as it violates a child’s right to an identity and dignity.
As pointed out in the article, the child is indirectly quoted in her court papers saying “I feel embarrassed every time I have to produce my birth certificate…I feel like an unwanted, fatherless child…I do not want to continue living with this shame and burden.”
This clearly demonstrates how the child faced humiliation and shame every time she had to produce her birth certificate which reflects the father as “unknown” even though she knew who her father was.
Furthermore, from reading the article, one gets the sense that the law seemingly perpetuates the idea of single-parent families and the idea of women having to bear the brunt of raising a child alone. The woman has to also carry the “shame” of having a child out of wedlock, while the man, carries on with his life.
While a father has a legal duty to support the child born out of wedlock, he has no parental authority over the child, except when “he consents in the presence of an official”.
The Births and Deaths Registrations Act seems to divert from the notion of shared parental responsibility which emphasises the important roles that both the mother and father have to play in the upbringing of a child.
More so, as the matter relates to the rights of a minor, the names and surnames of the individuals are not being disclosed.
Media Monitoring Africa commends Narsee for maintaining the highest standards of ethical conduct, excellence, and sensitivity in her reporting. It is this kind of coverage that can ensure that children’s constitutional rights are not infringed upon.
By Kgalalelo Morwe Gaebee
In response to the commentary, Sunday Times’ journalist, Aarti J Narsee said:
“Thank you for this. Much appreciated. It is always great to have feedback from MMA”