Social & Economic rights

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Appeal to the Competent Ministries to Amend the Acts that Prevent Registration at Birth

We have sent another call to the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government and the Ministry of Health to change the disputed provisions, thus eliminating the obstacles to registration in birth registry books immediately after birth. This problem, which affects some of the poorest and most disadvantaged citizens of Serbia, can be solved rather easily and quickly with some good will from the competent authorities.

Every child must be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth. This right is guaranteed to children by the Constitution, the law and ratified international conventions.

However, children who cannot be registered at birth continue to be born in Serbia. It happens when their mothers do not have identity cards. In these cases, instead of registering children in birth registry books immediately after birth, it is necessary to conduct special procedures before social welfare centres, municipal administrative bodies or courts. These procedures can often be lengthy and complicated and last, at best, several months, often more than a year and sometimes even for years. In this way, the child's right to timely registration in birth registry books is grossly violated. UNICEF has taken the position that registration immediately after birth implies a period of several days, not months.

Until these procedures are successfully completed, the child will not be able to obtain a birth certificate, due to which many of his or her rights will be denied or difficult to access. For example, the child will not be able to obtain a health card, which means that the parents will have to cover the costs of medical examinations and medicines, and will not be able to receive parental or child allowance or exercise other social security rights.

This problem in Serbia almost exclusively affects members of the Roma national minority, who are among the most vulnerable, most discriminated and most marginalised citizens. Thus, their already difficult position is only worsened.

The cause of the problem, i.e. the reason why the children of undocumented mothers cannot be registered at birth, is found in the two by-laws that regulate the procedure of birth notification and registration in birth registry books. They stipulate that data on parents shall be entered in birth registry books on the basis of their identity cards and birth certificates.

Despite the fact that the regulations of higher legal force (the Constitution, the Law on Family, ratified international conventions) stipulate that every child, without exception and regardless of any circumstances - including whether their parents have personal documents or not - must be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth, in practice, registrars apply by-laws and do not register the children of undocumented mothers in birth registry books immediately after birth. Therefore, it is necessary to amend the disputed by-laws so as to enable the registration in birth registry books of each child immediately after birth.

Numerous international organisations and treaty bodies have stressed that this situation is unsustainable and that it constitutes a violation of the child’s basic rights. These include the European Commission, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on Human Rights and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination, which in their recommendations to Serbia have pointed out that every child must be allowed to register at birth, and that it is necessary to amend the regulations that prevent it.

 

This activity has been implemented as part of the project “Ending Roma Statelessness in the Western Balkans”, financed by the Open Society Foundation through the European Network on Statelessness. The views expressed in this document are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the donor.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action