Proof of paternity may not be enough to register fathers in South Africa

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is challenging sections of the Birth and Death Registrations Act which allows the fathers of children born out of wedlock to decide whether they can be registered as the father and if the child can carry their surname.

As the Act stands, it stipulates the following:

  • The father’s written consent and physical presence is required by Home Affairs officials in order for them to be registered as a father – even if a paternity test has already confirmed this.

  • A child could not be registered with a surname other than the mother’s, unless the father has consented.

  • In the absence of this consent, the father will be documented as unknown.

Challenging the legislation

Tammy Carter, who is the senior legal services officer at the SAHRC, says that the problem with the law is that it is inconsistent with Constitutional standards of equality and with the rights of children and women.

Home Affairs are bound by the provisions of The Act and cannot make any corrections to birth certificates not outlined by the existing law. On Tuesday, 14 April, together with the Center for Child Law and Women’s Legal Center, the SAHRC are taking Section 10 and 11 to be reviewed in court.

National Spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, Mayihlome Tshwete says that the department is relooking the stance of the legislation. He advised that they are considering changing the standard operating procedures by Home Affairs officials to accommodate for concessions.

Home Affairs is also advocating for a better family tree in South Africa; to know the mother and the father of a child.

Listeners share their views

Kevin in Bedforview, from an organisation called Fathers in Africa (that he says often works closely with Sonke Gender Justice), expressed that this was a gender equality issue. H e says that women are not given the choice to go unnamed on birth certificates.

Why do we give fathers the right to abdicate responsibility, when they have clearly impregnated somebody? What the law is saying is that you can choose not to be the father of the child.

Lesley in Saxonwold says that there should be different categories of registration for different parental relationships that fathers may choose to have with their children.

Listen to the full conversation on the Redi Tlhabi show:

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