Shocked. That’s how Batu felt after her wedding day.
Her new husband, Ratan, already had a wife.
He had only married Batu because he was childless.
Because of cultural traditions and her family’s lack of income, Batu was not able to turn back.
She and her husband had three children - two daughters and a son.
But now she is worried.
Her children don’t have birth certificates. Their identity can’t be proven.
Hailing from a farming family in Nepal’s far-west district of Doti, Batu thought she would never need such documents – until now.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Batu’s son is ready for school.
But school administrators are hesitant to enroll him without a birth certificate.
Access to school is not Batu’s only worry.
She is also concerned that without legal proof of their identity, her children may not inherit their father’s property.
Now, Batu has two options: journey back to her birthplace to prove her identity; or wait for her husband, who has lived in India with his first wife for the last two years, to return and apply for the children’s documentation.
IS THIS A TYPICAL PROBLEM IN NEPAL?
Although Nepal legally requires birth registration to protect the future of every child, only a minority of births (42%) are officially registered. According to government figures for 2013, almost two-thirds of Nepalese children lack birth registration.
According to law, parents should register a birth with the local authorities, after which a birth certificate will be issued. Birth certificates are needed for numerous official reasons, such as:
- school and university admissions
- passport applications
- state entitlements
- government jobs
- legally inherit a parent’s property
Birth certificates also help protect children from exploitation, such as child labour, and child marriage, while additionally assisting in convicting those who have abused young people.
And without accurate population statistics, the government finds it difficult to plan basic services, mobilise resources and allocate its budget. Yet, a continued lack of awareness of these issues, means unreported births are a significant problem, especially with home-based deliveries in remote areas.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO BATU & HER CHILDREN?
Batu says, “I didn’t go to school and didn’t care about such documents. But now I understand their importance, so when my husband comes home, I’ll push him to register our children’s births to give them a better future.
“I can’t even read, so when I take my kids to hospital, sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand what the doctor says and writes. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my children. I want them to be educated as much as they want and to achieve their dreams.”
World Vision runs campaigns targeting parents with children whose births are unregistered to highlight that birth certificates are a fundamental right and essential in life. We are currently working in Batu’s community and hope to help her access a birth certificate for her children soon.