RGD says more fathers adding names to child's birth record

Monday, June 17, 2002    

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THE Registrar General's Department said more fathers are being registered on their child's birth record, with figures moving from 36.7 per cent in 1999 to 42.5 per cent in 2000.

Dr Patricia Holness, the chief executive officer (CEO) at the Registrar General's Department (RGD) told JIS News that there were a number of fathers coming in to the department to add their names and particulars on the certificate of their offspring.

"For example, last year alone over 10,000 fathers came forward to have their names added to the record of their child and this was done voluntarily," she said.

Dr Holness added that many fathers were happy and proud to have their names on the birth records of their children, although for a number of reasons that was not the case.

One reason may be that the father was not present at the time the child was being registered as the law prohibits the father's name being put on the birth record without his consent.

"The mother is not allowed to add the father's name without his signature attesting to the fact that he has accepted paternity, so the RGD receives quite a bit of registration without the father's name being on it," Dr Holness explained.

However, the father's name is automatically added to a child's registration when the parents are married and when a father who is not married to the mother, appears at the time of registration and completes the form with his particulars and accepts paternity.

But Dr Holness said when mothers were unsure of the paternity of their child they do not give a name for the child's father at the time of registration. She added that the flip side of this complication is that some mothers 'choose' the wrong father and when this occurs, there is a strong desire to change the surname later on in life.

Oftentimes, she noted, the mother might select a surname and the father is not named on the form. However, she noted that when the true father is found, he is allowed to add his particulars and that child will have two surnames.

She said, too, that there were also cases where the child is for a married man, and he does not desire to include his particulars on the birth certificate and in this case the mother agrees because she does not want to embarrass him.

There is currently no legislation that makes it compulsory for the father's name to be on their child's birth certificate. The government's proposed national registration system, however, could make it compulsory to include a father's name on the birth certificate of their offspring.

Canon Ernle Gordon, rector of the Church of St Mary, the Virgin, said that the absence of legislation regarding the compulsory inclusion of the father's names and particulars on the record of the children is rooted in the "patriarchal dominance" of law dating back to the Roman Empire. He added that this practice has continued today and that more than often, the law tends to protect men.

He said now the church is conducting counselling sessions for men, inviting them by way of the baptismal certificate to include their names which leads them automatically to include their name and particulars on the birth certificate.

Meanwhile, Dr Lucien Jones, a medical doctor, said that he would "support any legislation that would further encourage the father to be much more responsible". He said, however, that to add that legislation does not automatically mean that fathers were going to accept responsibility, but that it would send a message and encourage persons to do what is right.

"What is disturbing is that I see lots of teenage girls who are pregnant and almost all of them do not have a significant and secure relationship with their father. Many go out seeking to build or rebuild relationships that they ought to have with their father, with someone else -- be it the bus conductor, the taxi man or the drug peddler," Dr Jones said.




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