Kau Siapa? – An Identity Crisis

Soz, but without the right piece of paper, you don’t legally exist.

Quick question: do any of y’all actually know where your birth certs are? Because I legit just found out how important they are to our legal identity, and I cannot tell you, I dashed to find out if I even had one. Thank Beyonce, I do, it just hasn’t seen the light of day in like forever.

Macam ni la – I was just reading stuff online sempena Human Rights Day (which is celebrated every 10 December FYI – soz ya missed it) and learnt just how very important this simple piece of paper is. Our BIRTH CERTIFICATE.

Graphic illustration of Tati Wira's birth certificate.

Children who takde birth certificate are basically invisible children because they are unregistered. So kiranya cam you were born in Malaysia but maybe your parents didn’t actually register you and get you a birth cert. So you don’t really exist, legally speaking. You’re more or less a phantom. Kinda.

Phantom of the Opera gif

Okay, so being a phantom might sound kinda cool at first – like maybe you get special vigilante privileges, and it’ll certainly be easier to live in a sewer if you’re literally untraceable.

But I’m sorry friends, being unregistered actually 100% sucks – you get none of those made-up benefits and actually end up getting a pretty bad deal.


A lot of things become really difficult if you’re an unregistered Malaysian… like:

  Registering for anything official is hard: I’m talking school, hospitals, all of it.

This means less access to education or paying crazy rates for health stuff.

You can’t sit for major school exams – like PT3 or SPM.

College? Uni? Good luck ah.

It’s really hard to get a legal job.

You can’t even get EPF which is so important for bila dah tua nak retire nanti

Bank account pun susah nak bukak

Even getting a phone line becomes super hard!

You also have no way of proving your age – so on top of no more horror movies at the cinema and stuff, it also means you’re even less protected against child marriage, child labour and trafficking. Yikes.

So it’s like this la – our birth cert is our proof of our legal identity. This piece of paper is how all of us establish a nationality and avoid the risk of statelessness – which is when you can’t prove you belong to any country, so you’re legit floating in limbo.

“A 19-year-old boy born in Malaysia and adopted by a local family should have been entitled to citizenship. However, as there was no information about his biological parents on his birth certificate, the Court of Appeal said that he had been unable to prove that he was not a citizen of any other country, and therefore would fall outside the constitutional safety net.”


So how big is this problem? TBH, no one really knows in Malaysia ‘cause these children are not registered, so they don’t exist anywhere in the system to be counted. Global UNICEF report yang baru keluar pun can only estimate that 1 in 4 children under 5 years old DO NOT officially exist!


And in case you’re wondering – there are way too many ways children born in Malaysia can become invisible.

Maybe their parents live in remote parts of Malaysia and cannot afford to travel to the nearest registration facility. Maybe their parents tak tau baby’s birth has to be registered within a set time frame, kalau tak kena fine, maybe they just couldn’t pay for it. Maybe their mum was a single mother afraid of registering her child sebab takut kena judge thanks to that whole anak luar nikah stigma.

And so far, when it comes to, IDK, actually solving the problem, we all macam hangat-hangat tahi ayam je. I mean, the Government is trying lah. Last year they made it easier for kids who yang takde birth cert to study in Sekolah Kebangsaan.  Which is great! Tapiiiiii, this only applies to kids who have at least one parent that is a Malaysian citizen. So, kalau dua-dua parents not Malaysian, takleh skolah jugak pon.

APAKAH??? I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Hangat-hangat! 🔥🔥🔥

And I think the solution to all this senang je ekcheli

Yang penting is making birth registration more accessible! Especially kalau dekat Sabah and Sarawak, some families now have to travel for hours to get it done. Maybe the government can also think about making online registration a thing! #TechnologyTings

P/S: Easier access also means making it easier for parents who are illiterate or who use sign language ya.

Okay, kita start dengan ni dulu. We need to urge the government to innovate the way births are registered so that less kids go through life unregistered without a fair chance like the rest of us.

These kids live and breathe just like we do and they shouldn’t have to fight their whole lives to be seen as equal. It’s a basic human right kot.

I just think no kid in Malaysia should grow up feeling like they don’t exist.

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Tati Wira

A 20-something fierce believer of children's rights!
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