Declared boy at birth, Malaysian Indian girl forced to leave school

July 26th, 2008 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, July 26 (IANS) A Malaysian Indian girl has had to drop out of school here because her birth certificate registered her as a boy. T. Gomathy has not managed to get her record corrected despite six years of running around with appeals to the national registration department (NRD). Now 18, she remains under-educated.

She got a fresh certificate last week at a camp set up by the Birth Certificate Registration Programme organised by the ministry of women, family and community development.

Two hundred cases like those of Gomathy were tackled with the assistance of one of the co-organisers, the Yayasan Strategik Sosial (YSS), an NGO.

The mistake in Gomathy’s birth certificate was detected only when she was 12, when she applied for her national identity card.

“Because of this problem, I had to stop schooling,” Gomathy told the New Straits Times.

Her problem was compounded since the authorities wanted her biological mother to testify. But she went missing when the daughter was 11, and could not be contacted.

“Why did they ask her to bring her mother who went missing years ago when her biological father was with her?” asked YSS assistant director V. Vanitha Ramany.

Ramany criticised the NRD for the delay in correcting the mistake in Gomathy’s birth certificate.

The problem of registration and identity card is an old one among the Indian settlers in Malaysia who came here during the British era.

On independence in 1957, the government asked them to register. But thousands were illiterate and too poor and did not realise its importance.

The problem has come down since, but persists among the poor.

Ramany said a child born in an unregistered marriage might not get a birth certificate as some NRD officers would register a child in the absence of the parents’ marriage certificate while others would not.

She cited a case where seven brothers and sisters, aged four months to 10 years, did not have birth certificates because their parents did not register their marriage as it was the woman’s second marriage.

Then there are married women without birth certificates.

In such cases, even if their children were to get their birth certificates, they would remain non-citizens, Ramany said.

She called for holding of more registration camps and the appointment of more Tamil-speaking officers at NRD offices to help Indians who only spoke their mother tongue.

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