Cultural and Religious Practices Impeding Access to National Documentation” – ZHRC

 
By Lloyd Takawira 

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has deplored cultural practices such as demand for lobola and other religious beliefs  as barriers for many people to access national documents such as birth certificates in Zimbabwe.


In it’s April 2021 report on access to national documentation which has since been tabled in parliament , and a copy in possession of Bustop TV News ,the Commission said Zimbabweans attainment of national documentation is sometimes impeded by  several factors which includes cultural, religious and financial factors.


The commission of inquiry report reported that access to birth certificates are usually hampered by relatives due to family squabbles were one parent has passed on.


The reply said :“Cultural evidence established that when one parent is deceased, particularly the mother, male witnesses reported that they faced difficulties in obtaining birth certificates for their children because the maternal relatives refused to cooperate”.


The commission of inquiry also reported that testimonies from children with deceased parents mainly woman had a horrendous task of attaining birth certificates.

 
“There were testimonies of children with deceased mothers who had failed to have their births registered because their maternal relatives insisted on lobola issues being settled first before they availed themselves as witnesses or offered any other form of assistance during the registration process.”


On  social and cultural norms, the Zimbabwe Human Rights commission said it  identified as some cultural practices such as lobola as barriers in accessing identity documents.


“In some instances, this resulted in some husbands divorcing their wives and returning them to their families as they were unable to register their children because they were not documented,” reads the commission of inquiry.


Zimbabwe Human Rights commission also said it noted religious beliefs which forbid congregants from giving birth in clinics and hospitals as a barrier in procuring identity documents as they will be  no birth records to attest.


The commission of inquiry said “Religious beliefs evidence established that some religious beliefs were a barrier in accessing identity documents, particularly for some members of the Apostolic faith sect.

“Members of this congregation do not allow their members to give birth in clinics and hospitals, resulting in non-availability of birth confirmation records for their children.


“Despite the fact that some District Registrar General’s offices had come up with special mechanisms to register children born in such circumstances, some members still refused to comply.


“Through the national inquiry, the ZHRC established that some children born out of wedlock were not registered because their mothers were either unwilling or unable to use their maiden names to register the children. This usually happened in cases where the male family members did not grant them permission to use their surname, although this is not a legal requirement.”


In some cases, fathers of the children were the ones without identity documents, as such they also refused to have the children registered in their mothers’ names.”


The commission also noted that generational challenges were also Impeding  access national documentation . This is so as parents without national documentation will cannot be able to access national documentation for their children without themselves having documentation of themselves.

 
“This is whereby individuals failed to have identity documents because their parents, and in some cases grandparents, did not have national identity documents,” reads the report. “It was noted that for some witnesses, these challenges dated back to second and third generations.”


Commenting on the commission of inquiry social  rights activist Paidamoyo Bhendala said that there is need for the government to act on the commission as many people have no documentation in Zimbabwe.


She said ,” I have read the commission of inquiry on national documentation . l believe parliament should lobby government to expedite  bit flexible policy regarding access to National  documents”.


She also said that government urged parliament to craft laws that compels government to act on documentation as she said access to national documentation is a right enshrined in the National constitution .

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