I had an interesting experience this week. My brother had a son earlier this month and this past Wednesday he took me to the Bureau d'État Civil so I could sign as a witness for the birth certificate. And boy, what a great experience that was!
This public office is unfortunately situated right smack in the middle of a market. Hundreds of people coming and going, cars honking and practically rolling over your feet. You even get the crazy UN driver actually doing reverse in this milling nightmare!!!
So we go in. I'm leading our little file, followed by my brother and his other witness, D. I walk right in, through the lobby, up the stairs, down a corridor and into this small room, our final destination. Why is this weird? Well, for the number of people we meet all along the way, NOBODY ASKED US WHAT WE WERE DOING HERE.
Several dozen people, on the front steps, in the hall, on each step of the narrow stairs: no questions, a few comments (what kind of sick fool tries to pick up a woman on a stairway, anyway?) but most were content to just lean again the walls or tables. Probably their version of technical support...
Let's take a pause here. Because my hitman fantasy kicked in right about then. You see, whenever I go into formal settings, I think of crime. If I go to the bank, I think of armed robbery or a heist. When it's a public office, it's usually more violent. This is what happened here. Something by Tarrantino. We would all be wearing dark suits and sunglasses. Our guns in metal briefcases. Surprise. Panic. Chaos.
I love it.
Ok, back to reality. The room we go in has two tables. On the right, two women with what will turn out to be the registries. On the left, The Public Official himself.
We go in, wait our turn after these two ladies, and sign at the both of a page in each registry. Another mystery: how do they expect two people to sign on the dotted lign when the space is barely big enough for one signature in the first place???
The Public Official signes and seals the certificate, gives it to my brother and we leave.
That's it. The kid has been declared.
Now the title of this post came to me later, when I actually read the birth certificate and realized that nowhere on there is there mention of any ID number. Not for my brother, the father; not for either of us witnesses. My Sister-in-Law tells me that they didn't even ask for some sort of proof from the Maternity: a bill, a receipt, an affidavit from the doctor. Nada.
Basically, my brother could have named any woman, declared any gender of child, cited anyone as witnesses, they would take his word for it.
I mention this to a coworker who had studied law. Apparently, this has always been the case. Worse, there are two (2) types of birth certificates : the mother's and the father's. Wait, it gets better.
The mother can declare her child herself and name a father. Except this birth certificate can be contested by the real/fake father. Not so the case of the father's certificate. It's permanent.
As my coworker said, in a country of Miraculous Births, they figure any man willing to acknowledge a child, must really want to.
They'll believe you, whatever you say...