Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Who's the daddy? - AGD backs calls for fathers' names to be added to birth certificates

Published:Sunday | July 17, 2016 | 7:00 AMMikhail Williams

The Administrator General's Department (AGD) has added its voice for the compulsory addition of fathers' names to the birth certificates of their children.

The mandatory registration of fathers has been an outstanding issue since the 1970s, although attempts have been made throughout the years to expand the provisions of the registration of fathers.

In May 2011, Daryl Vaz, a member of the Bruce Golding-led Cabinet, announced that the administration had approved drafting instructions to the chief parliamentary counsel to facilitate amendments to the Registration (Births and Deaths) Act 1881.

The amendments were to provide for the inclusion of the names of unmarried fathers in the registration of births.

The proposed amendments would also provide that every child should be registered and that the father is named at the time of registration.

Should the mother be unable to declare the father's name, she would have to provide the reason for this on the appropriate section of the relevant form.

Following the change of administration in 2011, the new education minister, Ronald Thwaites, endorsed the proposed legislative change but this is yet to be implemented.

Now the Registrar General's Department (RGD) has started a drive for changes in the law to ensure that this becomes mandatory, and the AGD is giving this its full backing.

Deputy Administrator General Andrew Gyles last week told a Gleaner Editors' Forum that this would be a very welcome move.

"I think that the legislation would be the greatest move to the whole matter of the issue we're discussing, because that is where a lot of time is wasted, and people have to go through expenditure to go to court to prove paternity, and they often don't," said Gyles.

He said proving paternity through the courts is sometimes difficult as many Jamaicans are fearful of the legal system and they do not have the funds to pay attorneys, so the matter rests and stagnates for years.

Hampers investigations

Senior legal executive at the AGD, Kedia Delahaye, told Gleaner reporters and editors that the dilemma of no father's name on birth certificates hampers the investigation process of the AGD.

"When they do carry in the birth certificate, we have to look at it and say, 'Listen, your father's name is not on it, you need to go and prove paternity', and they give you the next two to three years despite you writing to them continuously to say, 'Listen, you can't move without these things'," said Delahaye.

"Let's say you had six children with different babymothers and you didn't put your name on their birth certificates, you're going to have a problem. Those children are going to have a problem to inherit because they will have to go to court and say, 'My father treated me as his child during his lifetime and so I'm entitled to benefit'," added Delahaye.

She also noted that in other jurisdictions, for example, England, there is compulsory registration of fathers because they have found that the lack of persons being on birth certificates is a problem.

"That step would be very good in terms of getting a lot of problems solved."

Last week, Nicole Whyte, communications officer at the RGD, told The Sunday Gleaner that her agency and the Ministry of Health are on a drive to make it mandatory for the father's name to be added to birth certificates, as this is a problem that plagues many people in Jamaica and creates a multitude of legal problems.

"We are actually trying to promote that father's name should be on their child's birth certificate, and even if they're not there at the time they can always come in after and do it," said Whyte.

More than 36 per cent of the children born in Jamaica in the 2012-2013 financial year did not have their fathers' names on their birth certificates.

The RGD reported that 37,223 births occurred in Jamaica in 2012-2013 but 13,436 of these children do not have their fathers' names, age and occupation on record.