Reflecting on the findings of the mobile birth registration that NRF in conjunction with Namati and UNHCR held last month where out of the 2,100 birth applications only 408 of the 420 births certificates issued were collected and the others are still being processed. This event that only lasted for three days on the ground with this high turn out. The collection day just like the application day had a huge turn out as seen in the picture and still the paralegals played a major role of guiding the applicants in checking for errors, advising those whose applications were denied on additional supporting documents for their applications and even to call the applicants who never came to collect their birth certificates and those who had not yet aid for their births to be processed.
Applicants surrounding Zena one of the NRF paralegals checking for errors in the certificates before collecting them.
That acting as the preamble of my short article I would like to go back to my main topic and that’s on whether punitive measures should be the solution to increasing the registration of persons in the country taking case study of the registration of persons bill 2011 which has several versions that its even next to impossible to get the exact clause number but the text for the penalty is constant. In some of the versions bills I have interacted with its section 22:
Any person who (a) Fails to apply to be registered in accordance with the provisions of this act Commits an offence and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
The bill can be downloaded from the link below:
In the other version it’s found in section 451.
(1) A person who is under legal duty to give notice of birth or death and who, without reasonable cause, fails to do so within the appropriate period provided in this Act commits an offence and shall be liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six, or to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings or both.
And in the other version its section 48 (a) which reads fairly the same way as quoted above. Though am not a lawyer but the text is so clear though I stand guided by the learned fraternity @paulmccann @vivekmaru @Purity_Wadegu @lauragoodwin @laurabingham
The sad bit is that this section is being supported and even has been proposed by the civil society who are entrusted as the voice of the voiceless. The excuse being that it is the right to other rights and rights come with responsibilities.
So why did I begin by acknowledging the roles of paralegals and stating the findings of the mobile birth certificate event? I wanted you to get a glimpse of the findings where 60% of the cases were late registration cases and bearing in mind that its a settlement that is located in a walking distance to the registration offices that by bus it could take 10-15 minutes to reach while it will take you 30 minutes by foot. Some of the reasons for the late registration can be related to bureaucracy, ignorance, though it is not an excuse in law, and even some blame it on poverty as many of the persons living there live below a dollar scale and have no permanent jobs. I know this is the situation in many parts of the World and in Brazil birth registration is free and for the poor they are even provide with more copies of the document free of charge.
In relation to the above context, I would like you to picture the condition of pastoral communities in Wajir which @muktar can be my witness, where it might take several months for the communities to reach the city center while searching for pasture and water during the dry period which takes more than two thirds of the year, what shall be the fate of such communities? Or in areas like in Kwale county where one has to travel half day to file an application and the cost of transportation can feed the family for a week and @Lore can bare witness t that. Should the people have to be punished for the state failing to fulfill its obligation to the rights of every child who has the right to be registered? By doing so are we shifting the responsibility of the state to the people who can not control the registration process?
I don’t know if such punitive measures have yielded success in other countries and has it increased on the registration level? How effective is it? Lets ponder on that…