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Namibian lawmakers examine bill to streamline civil registration, lower age for ID cards

Iris and face biometrics reported under consideration

A draft piece of legislation seeking to make changes to Namibia’s civil status registration and identification system is currently in the country’s parliament for first reading.

Among the proposed changes to the bill which has been introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, is a reduction in the legal age for obtaining a national ID card from 16 to 14.

Also, biometrics have been introduced in the process of enrollment for a national ID card, which is not stipulated in the country’s current Identification Act, in place since 1996.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Daniel Kashikola brought the bill to the attention of lawmakers recently.

According to government, the key purpose of the bill is to provide for a national civil registration system and for the issuing of identity documents. It also provides for a system of digital notification related to civil events such as births, as well as a system for access to, authentication, verification and sharing of information contained in the civil register or other information kept by the Home Affairs Ministry.

Home Affairs, in defense of the age reduction proposal, says at the age of 14, a child’s biometric features such as their fingerprints are fully developed and can be easily collected. It adds that one of the reasons for making changes to the age of obtaining an ID card is to enable children get the cards in time for their national examinations.

Kashikola also said the changes are made in anticipation of adding iris and face biometrics to Namibia’s digital identity management system, the Windhoek Observer reports.

Neighbouring South Africa has also reduced the age for obtaining an ID card from 16 to 10 in a new ID bill which got cabinet approval early this year.

Other novelties introduced by the Namibia bill include the obligation to submit personal information for ID registration under oath, the establishment of an Age Determination Committee to arbitrate on issues of alteration to the civil register such as age, and the appointment of registrars of birth, marriages and deaths who will act as commissioners of oath.

Generally, the bill spells out details patterning to notification and registration of births, notification and registration of deaths, registration of marriages and divorces, registration for and obtention of identity documents, verification of information and authentication for ID purposes and access to information.

Early this year, Namibia struck a deal with Botswana which allows citizens of both countries to enter either territory using their national ID cards as a way of facilitating the movement of persons between the two Southern African nations.

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