Former Fijian politician Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, who was forced to replace her birth name with her married name on her birth certificate due to amendments to the Interpretation Act and the Electoral (Registration of Voters) Act in 2021, expressed her disappointment at the loss of her identity and family history.
Speaking at the first round of consultations to review the name change policy held at the Suva Civic Centre today, Ganilau said her new birth certificate was mostly filled with “NA”, which saddened her.
She stated, “Because I had NA practically in every line of that birth certificate. I had my new name, I had my father’s name, his date of birth (DOB), my mother’s name, and her DOB, but they had a history too, and my old birth certificate contained who they were, from Tonga or from Fiji and what they did. We are not entities as far as the government or the registration is concerned, we are single-celled, asexual amoebae persona in the registration of our names and our persons. It falls short of information, and I really feel that there should be more thought put into this.”
She also expressed her sadness at losing her family’s history and identity, saying, “I have a history as a woman of the Rounds family that gets discarded when you change your birth certificate. I don’t know if you have seen the birth certificate, but it was sad. Nobody was consulted. Nobody knew we had this huge boulder on our shoulders that we had to contend with, that we had to change or had to change birth names, change our birth certificates, change the way we identified ourselves with the community. There was no emotion in the law that was changed overnight for the women in this country.”
Nine other people also shared their views on the name change policy during the session.
Officials from the Attorney General’s office, who conducted the consultations, said that they received written submissions in addition to the in-person submissions.
The consultations will be open until May 4, with sessions being held tomorrow at the Labasa Civic Centre and on Wednesday at the Nadi Civic Centre. Written submissions can be submitted through different channels, including posting, hand-delivering, or email to the Office of the Attorney-General using the following address by May 4, 2023:
Office of the Attorney-General
Level 7, Suvavou House
PO Box 2213
Government Buildings, Suva