Parliament to debate the Bill to remove the requirement for women to put their spouse’s surname on their birth certificate

Parliament to debate the Bill to remove the requirement for women to put their spouse’s surname on their birth certificate

By Vijay Narayan , Alipate Narawa
Tuesday 11/07/2023
Parliament of Fiji

Parliament will debate on the Interpretation Amendment Bill on Friday despite the FijiFirst MPs opposing the Bill to be brought in through Parliamentary Standing Orders 51.

Attorney General, Siromi Turaga says in 2021, the Interpretation Act was amended to provide that where any written law authorises or requires a person to provide his or her name, the person must provide the name as specified on the birth certificate, and where any written law authorises or requires a person to provide any form of identification of himself or herself, the person must provide such form of identification which accurately reflects the name as specified on the birth certificate.

These changes however disadvantaged mainly women who were then mandated to change the name on their birth certificate to include their spouse’s surname in order to continue using their spouse’s surname for various purposes including official identification or documentation including voter ID cards.

The Attorney General says consultations were held at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Solicitor General.

He says the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Fiji Council of Churches, iTaukei Land Trust Board, Fiji Elections Office, FNPF, FRCS, Land Transport Authority and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.

The Attorney General says public consultations were also carried out in Suva, Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi, outer islands like Lomaiviti, Gau, Batiki and Nairai.

Turaga says the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill 2023 seeks to amend the Act to remove these amendments that were made in 2021 through the Interpretation (Amendment) Act 2021.

FijiFirst MP, Mosese Bulitavu urged the Attorney General to come through the right procedure under the Standing Orders which is to go to the Standing Committee.

He says this Bill came from complaints by women regarding the voter card.

Bulitavu says the Bill has come very fast and the Attorney General is trying to prove a point.

While supporting the debate on the Bill, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Lynda Tabuya says there is no right time than now.

Tabuya further says this law was brought in under Standing Order 51 and the women of this country were not consulted.

While opposing the Bill, FijiFirst MP Jone Usamate says it is the height of hypocrisy.

Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Biman Prasad says yes they opposed the Standing Order 51, but this Interpretation Bill is urgent because the previous government was bringing these bad laws that was making it difficult for people to participate in the election process.

Professor Prasad says that was a bad law at a bad time, and many women are still complaining.

He spoke about a woman who wanted to travel to New Zealand and had to go through so much difficulty when she wanted to get a visa.

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