- The Constitutional Court has declared a section of the Births and Deaths Registration Act unconstitutional.
- The section does not allow an unmarried father to register his child's birth under his surname, unless the mother gives consent or is present.
- A ConCourt judge says there is no justification for differentiating between married and unmarried fathers.
The Constitutional Court has declared section 10 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act - which does not allow an unmarried father to register his child's birth under his surname, unless the mother is present or gives consent - unconstitutional.
In a judgment by Justice Margaret Victor on Wednesday, which was read out by Justice Steven Majiedt, the court found there was no justification for differentiating between married and unmarried fathers.
"Section 10 of the act impairs the dignity of unmarried fathers, whose bonds with their children are deemed less worthy than the children of married parents," Majiedt said.
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The apex court confirmed a 2020 ruling by the Eastern Cape High Court, which found the act invalid and inconsistent.
Father Menzile Lawrence Naki approached the court after the Department of Home Affairs refused to register his child under his surname because the mother was an undocumented Democratic Republic of Congo national.
The department would also not allow him to register the birth, without the mother's consent.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was one of two dissenting justices. He acknowledged that the act discriminated against unmarried fathers, but held the discrimination was reasonable, justifiable and fair.
"The chief justice holds that children are vulnerable and their best interests are of paramount importance in issues that concern them have to be addressed.
"The chief justice further reasons that they must be protected and not exposed to the risks of being easily claimed and adopted by people, whose relationship with them or subsequently to be in their lives, has been established," said Majiedt.