We are all entitled to legal recognition and a name under Section 11 of The Childrens' Act. Names in our society have a link to our gender such that boy’s names are distinct from girl’s names. It is through names that we are able to identify each other.
Our names have to be entered in our birth certificates and other registration documents that refer to us. The same importance attaches to the entry in the death certificates.
It is only after we acquire an identity under the law that we are able to assert and enjoy our rights under the law. It is no wonder Article 27 of our constitution stipulates that we have a right to equal benefit and protection before the law. No one can take away your name. You can however change it through a deed poll.
Most of our day to day activities play around our identity. Right from the day we are born, the entries in the birth certificate point out who we are. The registrar under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act is the custodian of our names.
We all walk around with identity papers with our names inscribed in them. The identity cards that we acquire once we turn 18 contain the information around your place and date of birth among many other particulars. The death certificate has to be issued whenever we die so that we do not remain active on the face of the earth on papers and records. Customarily the naming of children is done per the dictates and beliefs of each community.
For married parents, the name of the father of the child is entered in the birth certificate without challenges. However, single mothers are asked to provide the name of the birth father when the birth certificate paperwork is being completed.
The inability to enter a name in the birth documents can be fatal. The statutes or the laws of a country should facilitate the exercise of entering the names of ones parents in the birth and death registration papers. Section 12 of The Registration of Births and Deaths of Kenya stipulates that, no person shall be entered in the register as the father of any child except either at the joint request of the father and mother or upon the production to the registrar of such evidence as he may require that the father and mother were married according to law or, in accordance with some recognised custom.
The said provision tends to create an uncalled for hurdle when it comes to entering the name of the father especially when it comes to children born out of wedlock. In my opinion this provision goes against Articles 27 and 53 of the Constitution and Section 4 of The Children Act. Obviously mother who finds herself in such a situation cannot prove that she was married to the child’s father given that it is a clear fact that she is not married.
All the foregoing said, it is however difficult for a single mother to enter the child’s father's name on the child's birth certificate in case they parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth.
This becomes even more difficult when the father is married elsewhere or if the single mother has since fallen out with the child’s father.
This leaves many children born out of wedlock with birth certificates that carry the xxxxx entries on the name of father slot. This is the cause of a lot of untold inequality and stigma. These children cannot rank equally with their peers in the classroom. They are vulnerable. I wonder what the single mothers tell the children whenever the question of fathers name arises given that it arises. Many end up lying to the innocent children. This is a time bomb.
These children are denied a lot of rights as a result of the ailing legislation. They can’t be listed as beneficiaries of persons who they do not know. These children grow without knowing their fathers. They grow without access to their history. I hope we have all read the book Roots by Alex Hailey. Whenever these children go to the hospital and the doctor asks for their medical history such children remain exposed. What if the father was suffering from a terminal illness? They might never get solutions to their medical issues. Have an equal day.