Religious norms and beliefs by some apostolic sects are a major cause of non-documentation of children in Manicaland province as their members shun use of health centres,thus failing to access birth records used in acquiring birth certificates,the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission(ZHRC) has said.
ZHRC Vice chairperson, Ellen Sithole said this while addressing media during the commencement of Public Hearings on the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe in the eastern border city on Monday.
The Inquiry is running under the theme “My Identity, My Rights”.
The commission is conducting hearings across the country`s 10 provinces until the end November to inquire into the challenges in accessing national documents, and the extent to which they affect people in the country.
The national inquiry will focus on five national documents, which are the birth certificate, national identity card, passport, death certificate and citizenship.
“Preliminary findings show that most people in Manicaland were failing to access birth certificates followed by national IDs, passport, death certificates and citizenship.
“Religious norms and beliefs by some apostolic sects are a major cause of non-documentation in Manicaland as (the) religious groups shun the use of health centres, thus failing to access birth records which are used in acquiring birth certificates,” said Sithole.
Long distances and costs of accessing Registrar General`s Office, Sithole said, were also contributing to challenges experienced by people in accessing documents.
She said the commission will facilitate the transportation of witness from all the province`s seven districts to the venue to ensure their participation and success of the public hearings.
“Access to documentation is a fundamental human right guaranteed by (the)Constitution of Zimbabwe and which facilitates their enjoyment of other human rights.
“Birth registration establishes a person`s legal existence, legal personality and identity. Birth registration is a documentary proof of nationality. The importance of nationality is to prevent statelessness,” said Sithole.
The Commisioner said a person who is not registered does not legally exist, adding that the person is not a citizen of any country.
“The (unregistered)person runs a substantial risk of falling outside the reach of Government`s protective measures towards him/her,” said Sithole.
She said the commission engaged 5 552 citizens after the provincial stakeholders meeting which was held in September.
“Of these, 3 672 were females while 1880 were females. 52 were persons with disabilities attended the outreach conducted across seven districts. Traditional leaders and local government officials also attended the outreach meetings in all district,” said Sithole.
The Commission will conduct its next public hearings in Bulawayo from October 21-25, having conducted similar inquiries in Masvingo, Matebeleland North, Mashonaland Central, Matebeleland South, Mashonaland East and Midlands province.
Pungwe News-New Ziana