Last week Humanists International Member, Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka (CEMSL), welcomed the news that the Sri Lankan government was going to remove any references to “ethnicity, religion and race” in the new birth certificates for all new born citizens of the country.
Subsequently however, the government rejected this news as untrue, confirming that the only change in the birth certificates will be the removal of parents’ marital information. This caused confusion and perplexity, since other members of the government did welcome the news positively in the first place.
Nonetheless, the Head of the Registrar General, N. C. Vithanage, publicly stated that plans to modernise the birth certificate did not include the removal of a child’s ethnicity: “references to race or ethnicity, be it Sinhala, Tamil or any of the minorities, will continue to be included in the birth certificate. The old birth certificate as well as the new one – when it comes into being – will include the race and ethnicity of the child.”
Notably, despite the word “religion” not being explicitly mentioned in the Birth Certificate, some religious minorities are forced to include it when filling in the form – Muslim parents have to write “Muslim” in the birth certificate of their new born sons.
CEMSL released the following statement:
“We urge the government to remove the columns obtaining information on applicant’s race, religion, ethnicity and the marital status of the parents in the Birth Certificate, which would be known as the National Birth Certificate in future. It is unfortunate that the political pressure and political influences have been applied to reverse the previous decision of the government.
“CEMSL’s stance is that any mentioning of religion, race and ethnicity in any legal and official documents such as oaths, police complaint registers, affidavits, marriage certificates, etc. should be removed. Far from being motivated by any political or vested interests, our stance is based on humanist principles and values, the same expressed in the Amsterdam Declaration, the official statement of modern humanism.”