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3 crore citizens without birth registration

Why are so many citizens invisible to state law?

Editorial  Desk

Editorial Desk

Fri, 14 Jun 24

It is the responsibility of the state to register the birth of its citizens. The Bangladesh government has made significant strides in this regard. However, according to the latest census, over 17 percent of the population still does not have a birth certificate. This translates to approximately 29.2 million people without birth registration. Such information was revealed in a socio-economic demographic survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) last Wednesday (June 12).

According to the Birth Registration Act of 2004, everyone in Bangladesh, regardless of caste, religion, group, or gender, is required to complete the birth and death registration process within 45 days of birth and death. Unfortunately, there is considerable disarray in the proper implementation of these rules at the government level, which is both regrettable and undesirable.

A birth certificate serves as proof of a person's birth, age, identity, and citizenship. It is essential for acquiring human rights and accessing various government services. Citizens need birth and death registration for tasks such as obtaining passports, opening bank accounts, registering marriages, enrolling in educational institutions, buying and selling land, and acquiring death and inheritance certificates. Birth registration is the first legal step in confirming a newborn's nationality.

However, many people remain unregistered due to the difficulties in obtaining a birth certificate. Citizens often face harassment at every step of the registration process, leading to a significant portion of the population lacking official state identity. This issue poses a crisis for those individuals, as they are unable to fully participate in and benefit from state services and legal recognition.

National Identity Cards and Birth Certificates are two crucial documents necessary for accessing civil services. It is essential to have these documents, but age-based time frames are important in this context. At one time, there was no system for issuing birth certificates, leaving many people without them. For older generations, this certificate may not have been necessary. However, birth registration is now mandatory for individuals under 18 years of age.

Those who lack a birth certificate may be residing abroad or may not have faced the need for one. Similarly, the widespread use of passports has not yet become essential for everyone, leading to fewer people obtaining them despite the associated costs. Furthermore, the process of acquiring these services often involves significant hassle and inconvenience, deterring many from obtaining them.

Research indicates that more than one crore children under the age of five in Bangladesh are not registered despite the legal requirement for birth registration. As a result, these children remain invisible under state law, facing significant obstacles in accessing basic services such as education, health, and legal benefits.
The existing law mandates the registration of newborns within 45 days of birth. However, the lack of recognised identity for these children exacerbates issues like trafficking, child marriage, and child labor. Experts emphasise that addressing these crises requires ensuring the birth registration of all children and issuing death certificates for the deceased.

To mitigate these challenges and protect children's rights, it is crucial to streamline and enforce the registration process, raising awareness and making it more accessible to all citizens.

We want to put an end to all the difficulties and suffering that citizens face in obtaining birth and death certificates. It is essential that citizens receive these services within the stipulated time. To achieve this, there is no alternative to simplifying the registration process, prosecuting both government and private miscreants, including brokers, and establishing robust online servers. Simplifying the process and enhancing the system's efficiency will ensure timely and accessible services for all citizens.

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