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Jan. 1 has become the birthday for Afghans who don't know when they were born (seattletimes.com)
57 points by kumarski 1257 days ago | hide | past | web | 36 comments | favorite

In a lot of the world Jan. 1 is everyone's birthday. Or Dec. 31 (The article cites Somalia, Sudan and Vietnam as other examples, but I have been to several other countries where the majority of the rural population has the same issue). It's not really a big deal - some people just don't care what the exact date was that they were born. It seems a bit culturally imperialistic to impose that norm on a lot of issues (aid distribution, human rights, passport standards, etc.)

This is the quote cited from the UN report, which makes a case for the importance of registration pragmatically:

>“Birth registration is instrumental in safeguarding other human rights because it provides the official ‘proof’ of a child’s existence,”

... but it begs the question for any parent in this situation: "Why do I need proof, my child is right here in front of me?!"

It is, like most forms of official identity, primarily for the benefit of official databases and categorisation systems. But not entirely:

Birth registration and death registration are a matched pair that enable the tracking and prevention of certain kinds of abuse. In Victorian England, way before the availability of contraception or abortion, there was "baby farming". This involved a oneoff payment to send an unwanted infant to be "looked after" with no further contact. The baby farms had very high mortality rates, which everyone turned a blind eye to. This was eventually stamped out. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Dyer

The most famous example of "why do I care about my birth certificate" is of course Barack Obama. Some people were determined to make it very important.

Which other nations require native birth for position?

Are you even trying with the last paragraph? They need to know how to verify your child's existence to make sure you aren't crazy and when to send him to school among many things?

Well, neither of those things represents a benefit to the parent... registration appears to be something governments like in order to make things easier for themselves. Why is it surprising that parents wouldn't care?

Your child has been kidnapped and brainwashwd, and the kidnappers claim the he his their son. I challenge you to prove otherwise. A birth certificate would come in handy.

Leaving aside the many other problems with your scenario, why would a birth certificate come in handy? At best, it would prove that you had a child at some point. It certainly wouldn't show that any particular child was yours (unlike a paternity test).

A birth certificate would come in handy.

As would a DNA based paternity test. No need for government issued papers.

As would a DNA based paternity test. No need for government issued papers

A country that can't even issue birth certificates can do DNA testing?

FedEx services a large area.

Good point, but isn't it still much easier to have the parents sign a piece of paper and keep it in a hall of records than to constantly mail off dna samples for testing? I'm sure that presenting the birth certificate is much quicker and cheapet than mail order dna tests.

To prove anything it should contain (securely) timestamped DNA scan.

What stops someone from stealing my cats out of my apartment?

1.) Most people don't want to.

And if they did get stolen, how would I prove they were mine? I have no registered documentation of the cats!

Except for photos, and dozens of individuals who have seen me with the cats.

You don't need a government certificate to bring a civil or criminal case against someone.

What stops someone from stealing my cats out of my apartment?

1.) Most people don't want to.

Cats are plentiful...I can get one anywhere. Children, on the other hand, are hard to come by. Ask anyone who paid $20k for fertility treatments and still couldn't have a child. More nefarious types can't steal your cats and make them soldiers, or sell them as sex slaves like they can your children.

Hence why they hack it, and say "We'll give you money if your child is 'registered'".

i was working in louisiana for a while, a friend told me that they have exactly one ancient printer that is capable of printing birth certificates. nobody dares to touch it, because _if_ for whatever reason that printer breaks, kids can no longer be officially born in the state of louisiana.

Hah, here I was thinking the title referred to account sign-up pages, where Afghanistan would be the default country and January 1st the default date. Programmer's first reaction, haha...

Same here. The twist for a programmer is that if you run a system and were to 'ignore' all Jan 1st Afghan registrations as people who have filled in junk data on registration forms, you would be also potentially be skipping over lots of real users!

My exact thoughts. And the follow up article, "Why do I have so many from zip code 90210?"

My exact reaction too! :-)

Seems like someone needs to do a "Falsehoods programmers believe about birthday" ;)

It's not suprising really. Many people don't track this when they don't need to. Many people used to not track how old they were (i.e. what year they were born in), because it didn't matter.

The UK brought in an old aged pension for everyone about 100 years ago. But you had to be over a certain age. So people suddenly found reason for figuring out how old they were. There had been censuses in the UK for ~50 years before that, but the age didn't matter. You could find people who only "aged" 5 years between 1901 and 1911 ;). It's messy stuff like that that can make genology difficult.

Roman calendar? I think the reporter means, "Gregorian" calendar. That's the calendar used in the U.S. and by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and by everyone else in the Middle East when they wish to make a distinction from the hejira calendar. Although maybe a legacy of the Russian occupation is the use of the Julian calendar? Who knows? It's sloppy reporting.

Also, Chinese people have individual birthdays. However, black children born in many counties of northern Florida before 1930 were not given birth certificates.

Maybe they got "Roman" from Roman alphabet? – another culture import of the Western forces.

This had an adverse affect on the Austrian SSN number scheme. The number was your birthday plus 4 digits. In a country with less than 8million people and a functioning healthcare system this works nicely, generates a unique identifier. a lot of software was built around this premise, a government issued, unique identifier.

migration brought in people from turkey, which a while ago was one of the countries handing out estimated birthdays. whenever a gov official visited a town, all new babies were registered and got a birthday at the first of the month.


the SSN in Austria can no longer be considered unique, but still a lot of newbies fall into this trap.

the butterfly effect.

In South Korea, it is literally everyone's birthday on January 1st.


For Chinese, it is on seventh day of the lunar new year. Its called “renri” (人日), literally "human" "day". On this day, for southeast asia Chinese, you eat the Yusheng (鱼生) raw fish salad dish http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yusheng. You can eat yusheng any days during Chinese New Year, just that it is more prosperous to eat it on human day.

In Sweden this has caused issues with uniqueness of the social security number for immigrants.

This is very common.

In Israel, a lot of people immigrated here from e.g. Iraq, and they don't know their birthday. I guess in some cultures birthdays just weren't remembered (at least in the past, maybe that's changing?).

I'd imagine that turmoil is major factor for the deficiencies in record-keeping.

My father's official birthday is a few months after his actual birthday, because he was born right in the middle of the Japanese occupation of our country. Couldn't get a birth certificate until after WW2 had ended.

In Ethiopia, most of the rural born population (more than 80%) don't know their exact date of birth. So, what their parents usually do is try to find some historical reference that occurred during their childrens' birthday and approximate it to some specific date.

>but since the American invasion, it’s become a new kind of holiday — a de facto birthday for thousands of Afghans who don’t know when they were born

Speaking about cultural and capitalist propaganda. In a lot of countries (due to religious motives) birthdays are not celebrated. In fact, true Christianity is also very anti-birthday but capitalism and other mass-spending arguments basically altered those beliefs for their own good.

True Christianity? Let's not invoke the no true Scotsman fallacy here. Yes it is true that some Christians at some times thought celebrating birthdays was wrong. Notably the Puritans and Quakers and currently the Jehovah's witnesses. These groups also don't celebrate Christmas. There's also many Christians who allow the celebration of birthdays and never had a problem with it as far as I can tell. It wasn't always capitalism and mass spending just cultural exchange. Charles Dickens has a lot to do with our modern Christmas for example.

I work for a governmental organization that in case of a missing birth date records only the year and sets month and day to 0 (e.g. 1972-00-00). This, at first sight, reasonable workaround from a user's point of view has some unanticipated ramifications when you search for a person. Those month- and day-less are born on each day of a year ...

It was same in Turkey, it has changed. Now they register it as it as July 1.

I know a planet where every year is "Year One"...

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