Error of the Registrar: the Story of a Roma Boy with a Girl’s Name


Katerina Brynzachka changed the name of her son, so that he finally has a male name, only at the request of the school. They said that they could not enroll her boy, because according to the birth certificate, he was a girl.

One cannot imagine our life without registrar’s office. The work of its employees is a continuous interweaving of human lives, names, numbers, dates… An employee’s error in official documents made many years ago may caused many bureaucratic ordeals, additional costs and litigations.

Recently, the “Mukachevo Human Rights Center” has received many appeals from citizens facing a typical problem. When committing legally significant actions, they cannot receive all the necessary documents, because in the relevant documents certifying the acts of civil status (birth certificate, death certificate, and marriage certificate), names or other essential information is indicated with mistakes that potentially could result in the inability to exercise their legal rights.

Of course, as in any other fields of human activity, registrar officials are not immune to wrong decisions. However, there are mistakes that are not amenable to analysis within reason. Moreover, the reluctance of civil servants to help representatives of the Roma national minority does not justify them.

Employees of government agencies can afford “special” attitude towards Roma. They can shout at them or send them somewhere without really explaining what documents need to be brought or re-issued, and how it can be done. Of course, having made several unsuccessful attempts to “legalize” themselves, Roma return to their usual ways – they stop solving their problems. Reluctance to bother and prejudice towards the Roma from civil servants is what gives rise to all the problems that exist today in Roma settlement.

In 2004, the department of civil registration of Mukachevo City Department of Justice made a mistake in the book of birth records, indicating that a citizen Brynzachka Katerina Ernestivna was born on August 4, 2004. As seen from the medical birth certificate of Mukachevo District hospital, on August 4, 2004 in the maternity ward, a citizen Brynzachka Katerina gave birth to a baby boy. While issuing the birth certificate, the department of civil registration of Mukachevo City Department of Justice erroneously indicated that a girl – Brynzachka Katerina Ernestivna – was born on 04.08.2004, that made a wrong entry.

According to the Article 22 of the Law of Ukraine “On state registration of acts of civil status”, amendments to entries of civil status shall be made by a relevant state authority for civil status registration if there is sufficient reason for that. Following the check of the collected documents, the state authority for civil registration makes a reasoned decision on amendments to civil status record.

Brynzachka K.E. personally appealed to the Department of Civil Registry Office with the application for amending the record in the prescribed form, but the head of the Department in Mukachevo refused to accept this application.
Only after the lawyers of the “Mukachevo Human Rights Center” had sent numerous complaints and requests to the Registrar, the Department of Justice in the Transcarpathian region and the State Registration Service of Ukraine finally gave the conclusion, namely, to refuse to amend the birth record by changing the gender of the child from “female” to “male.”

On behalf of Brynzachka Katerina, lawyers appealed to the Transcarpathian Regional Administrative Court to declare the actions of the department of civil registration in refusing to make amendments to the birth record unlawful and to oblige the Department of Civil Registration Office to amend the birth record, to correct the sex of the child from “female” to “male”, the child’s first name from “Katerina” to “Yuriy”, the patronymic name from “Ernestivna” to “Ernestovych.”

The Article 6 of the Law «On Principles of Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine» states that, in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, generally recognized principles and norms of international law and the international treaties of Ukraine, all persons, regardless of their specific features, have equal rights and freedoms and equal opportunities for implementation thereof. Therefore, representatives of the Roma minority should not be restricted in their rights.

The Administrative Court issued a ruling in which the actions of the department of state civil registration in the city of Mukachevo are declared illegal and the Department of the Civil Registration Office is ordered to amend the birth record.

The story of Katerina Brynzachka is no different from the stories of other Roma who try to solve their problems. As you can see, the procedure for correcting errors in documents, certifying acts of civil status takes a lot of effort, but it is necessary. Because the use of erroneous information in the future could lead to much bigger problems. It is better to be careful during registration and receipt of the relevant documents to avoid further problems when correcting them in the future.

Mindfulness is, unfortunately, the only way you can protect yourself and your children from this unpleasant problem. Advice: carefully examine the documents, paying particular attention to spelling of names, check the date and place of birth, and, as practice shows, even sex. Spending ten minutes to check the documents, you will free yourself from painful months, or even years of paperwork.

Discrimination by civil servants

Perhaps Roma could understand the complex bureaucratic system of registration themselves. However, their good intentions usually break against the wall of civil servants’ attitude.

Bureaucrats, think about it at least sometimes!

The Charitable fund “Progress”

PS: The centers of legal information and advice that provide free legal aid to Roma people working with the support of the “Roma of Ukraine“, International “Renaissance” Foundation. To learn more about the activities of a network of centers, foundations and principles of work visit the website under “Legal Empowerment of Roma communities.” The views in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the International “Renaissance” Foundation and other civil, religious and political organizations and individuals.