The principle of universality and international human rights law requires governments to make civil registration services accessible to every individual within their territory. Despite these mandates, civil registration systems in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are far from being accessible to women. Many women living in LMICs are disproportionately affected by social and cultural norms, low literacy rates, and a lack of knowledge of their rights and administrative processes. These women face serious challenges in registering vital events, leading to a violation of rights and limiting the enjoyment of entitlements and social benefits.
Having a strong legal framework in place is one critical step governments can take in fulfilling their obligation to build a well-functioning CRVS system. It is also a foundation for a system inclusive of all people, such as women and other marginalized groups, that works to ensure civil registrations are complete and inform policy decisions that can positively impact the lives of women. Laws play a crucial role in ensuring protections for the rights and benefits of disadvantaged population groups, including women. To this end, it is important that all countries protect women’s rights in the design and implementation of legal frameworks in accordance with international best practices.
National CRVS laws should allow every child’s birth registration irrespective of their sex. When designating a parent as an informant of birth, a law must ensure that mothers can act on their own despite their marital status or the paternity of the child. In systems where family members are the designated informants of death, laws should treat male and female relatives equally, without preference for one another. Such a stipulation protects women against discrimination in reporting the death of their parent, child, or spouse, which is an important step in securing widow’s rights and benefits such as inheritances, pensions, and other social benefits.
Laws protect women’s rights in marriage and divorce by regulating age and consent to marriage, prohibiting polygamous marriage, and enabling registration and certification of both marriages and divorces. Where such laws are present, women can exercise their rights to remarry, division of property, and parental custody, among others. Laws governing timely registration of vital events should consider factors that affect timely registration of vital events by women such as recovery from child delivery and related health issues and norms requiring them to stay home after childbirth or a spouse’s death, as well as recording of deaths by gender-based violence. Laws could also empower civil registration institutions to implement special measures to make civil registration services more accessible to women in terms of proximity and service provision.