Social & Economic rights

Friday, 18 October 2019

Every Child Has the Right to Be Registered Immediately Upon Birth - Remaining Problems

Every child, without any exception and regardless of the circumstances of the birth, shall be registered immediately upon birth. This right is guaranteed both by the ratified international conventions and the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Serbia1. When it is said that a child has to be registered immediately upon birth, it implies a defined period of days rather then months2.

However, children of undocumented mothers in Serbia are denied this right. Two bylaws regulating the procedure of birth registration stipulate that data on parents shall be registered based on their ID cards and birth certificates. In practice, it means that data on parents and personal names of children cannot be registered to children whose mothers do not possess personal documents 3. In other words, children are then left without being registered in birth registries and it is not possible to obtain birth certificates for them.

In order for those children to be registered, it is necessary to conduct separate procedures, which ideally last for several weeks, but most often several months. It is not uncommon that procedures last for more than a year, and sometimes can take few years 4. In all those cases, the right of a child to be registered immediately upon birth has been violated.

But this is not the only right denied to these children. Because they do not have birth certificates, these children cannot obtain health booklets, they cannot register their permanent residence or exercise the right to social protection, and their families are left without parental and child allowance.

This problem almost exclusively affects the members of Roma national minority, given that certain number of Roma women still give birth to children without possessing an ID card. The position of this social group, which is the most vulnerable and most discriminated, is thus even more aggravated. The research conducted by UNHCR in Roma settlements showed that 8% of children under 4 years of age are not registered in birth registries5.

The seriousness of this problem is confirmed by reports and recommendations of a large number of international organizations and contracting bodies which call on Serbia to solve this problem and enable each child to register in birth registries immediately upon birth regardless of whether their parents have personal documents or not. Such recommendations have been given to Serbia by United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the European Parliament, the European Commission. Serbia has also committed itself to fulfilling the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which includes the goal of enabling everyone to get registered in birth registries.

In spite of all above stated, the competent authorities refuse to take measures that would enable timely registration of every child. Praxis has repeatedly addressed the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government and Ministry of Health, the authorities responsible for issuing bylaws that regulate a birth registration procedure, with an appeal to solve this issue. However, no response has been received from the Ministry of Health, while the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government denied the presence of the problem by stating that existing regulations enable everyone to get registered in birth registries. But, the Ministry neglected the fact that children whose mothers do not possess personal documents cannot be registered immediately upon birth but only upon they conduct procedures lasting rarely less than a few months.

If Serbia wants to become a society free of institutional violation of human rights where the best interest of the child is always the paramount goal and where all citizens have equal opportunities, then it shall face this problem and start solving it devotedly.


1 See Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 24, Paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 64, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and Article 13 of the Family Law

2 UNICEF, Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2007, p. 100; available at: https://uni.cf/36vQ2NI

3 If the father does not have documents, and the mother does, it is possible to register the birth of a child only without recording the father’s

4 For more details about problems relating to birth registration, see Praxis reports available at: https://bit.ly/2sh70QW

5 See: S. Cvejić, Persons at Risk of Statelessness in Serbia, progress report 2010-2015, UNHCR, 2016; available at: https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/57bd436b4.pdf

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