Birth Registration : The Importance of Having at Least Two Words in a Name

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Birth registration is the process of officially recording a child’s birth with the government. A birth certificate is an important legal document that serves as proof of a person’s identity and citizenship. Recently, there have been new rules implemented in some countries that require names on birth certificates to contain at least two words. This article will explore the reasons behind this policy change and its implications.

Birth Registration

Birth Registration – The Problems with Single Word Names

In the past, it was common for birth certificates to contain single word names like Sakhina, Margina, or Rashid. However, this has led to several administrative issues:

  • Ambiguity and confusion – Single names do not provide enough identifying information. There could be multiple people with the same name, making it difficult to distinguish records.
  • Difficulty getting legal documents – Passports, driving licenses, and other legal documents require verified identities. Single names cause complications in background checks.
  • Issues traveling abroad – Many foreign countries are unfamiliar with single names and may deny visa applications if the name seems suspicious or insufficient.
  • Problems accessing services – Banks, schools, healthcare services, etc. often require thorough ID verification, which is challenging with single word names.

By mandating a two word minimum, authorities hope to reduce these troubles. The additional name reduces ambiguity and makes identification more definitive.

The Policy Decision

To address the problems associated with single word names, some governmental registration departments have enacted a two word name policy. For example, in Bangladesh, the Registrar General of the Birth and Death Registration Office announced:

“Everybody’s name should be at least two words in the birth certificate. Henceforth birth certificates will no longer be issued under names like Sakhina, Margina or Rashid. Names with two syllables such as Sakhina Begum or Sakhina Khatun, Abdur Rashid or Md. Abdur Rashid Sarkar should write like this.”

Similar policies have been adopted in other Asian and African countries that frequently dealt with single name confusion. By requiring a minimum of two words, the policy aims to increase accuracy and reduce complications.

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The Legal Basis

The legal basis for requiring two word names lies in the inherent powers of government registration departments. According to most birth registration laws, the registrar has authority to implement registration policies as deemed appropriate.

As the primary proof of identity, birth certificates must provide sufficient information to avoid ambiguity. Requiring a two word minimum is a reasonable exercise of the registrar’s legal powers to enforce unambiguous identity documentation.

Citizens also have a civic obligation to comply with lawful identity documentation requirements. Two word names advance public interests by facilitating efficient and accurate identification. Thus, it is reasonable to expect citizens to comply with the two word policy.

Implementation of the Two Word Policy

When the two word name policy was first introduced, many people with single word names had to update their birth records. They were required to legally add a second name to their current single name.

This was done by submitting an application to change or correct the name on a birth certificate. Supporting documents and IDs had to be provided to verify identity and citizenship.

Once approved, an amended birth certificate was issued with the two part name. This new certificate then had to be used to update all other official documents like passports, licenses, bank accounts, academic certificates, etc.

For new registrations, parents are now required to provide at least two words for their child’s name on the birth registration form. The birth certificate is only issued if this requirement is fulfilled.

To facilitate the transition, governments ran awareness campaigns about the new two word policy and why it was instituted. Registration authorities also established dedicated processing centers to handle name change applications.

While initially cumbersome, the two word name transition helped streamline identification and boosted birth record accuracies.

Benefits of the Two Word Name Policy

The two word name mandate provides the following key benefits:

  • Removes ambiguity – The extra name minimizes confusion with others who have the same name.
  • Enhances identity verification – More definitive IDs makes background checks for legal documents easier.
  • Facilitates international travel – Other nations find two word names more acceptable for visas and immigration.
  • Improves access to services – Banks, schools, healthcare providers can easily confirm identities.
  • Upholds rights and privileges – Reduces risks of being denied rights or entitlements due to unconfirmed ID.
  • Streamlines records management – Searches, retrievals, and updates of records becomes easier.
  • Strengthens national security – Precise, error-free identification helps monitor threats, criminals, and risks.
  • Supports law enforcement – Police and courts can unambiguously establish perpetrators and victims.

While transitioning to two word names involved some temporary difficulties, authorities affirm it was necessary to maximize identification integrity.

Addressing Criticisms of the Two Word Policy

Despite its benefits, the two word name mandate also garnered some criticisms, including:

  • Infringes on personal naming choices – Critics argue that parents should have the right to name their child freely. The policy restricts this freedom.
  • Causes inconvenience updating documents – People with single names had to go through lengthy bureaucratic processes to add a second name across all their records.
  • Violates cultural naming conventions – Some communities traditionally used single names and are unhappy about altering this practice.
  • Imposes costs to change names – Applicants sometimes had to pay fees to file for an official name modification on their birth certificate.
  • Doesn’t solve all identification issues – While helpful, some point out that two word names may still not fully resolve all identification challenges.
  • Is inconsistently enforced – There are instances where single names were still issued on birth certificates, violating the supposed policy.

To address these complaints, authorities highlighted that the public benefits outweighed the personal inconveniences. Official ID integrity is critical for stable societies. They encouraged using expanded naming options like ancestral surnames or patronyms as the second name rather than wholly invented ones. Financial waivers were also offered for economically disadvantaged applicants.

While imperfect, authorities stress the two word policy remains a prudent balance between personal choice and social needs. Ongoing policy reviews aim to refine the regulations to be both flexible and functional.

The Future of the Two Word Name Policy

Looking ahead, the two word name policy is likely to remain in place with most registration authorities. However, several refinements are expected:

  • Greater flexibility – Registration departments may relax the policy for common one word names that are unambiguous. Single names with ample history and documentation may be allowed.
  • Standardization of rules – Clearer guidelines around name format, length, characters, etc. will be developed to streamline enforcement.
  • Use of technology – Digital records and biometrics will help strengthen identification and reduce single name issues.
  • Education campaigns – More outreach will be done to build public understanding and compliance with naming policies.
  • Integration with civil processes – Procedures for marriage, divorce, adoption and other life events will align with the two word system.
  • Transition support – Streamlined mechanisms will be implemented to assist citizens in updating single names across databases and records.

With more experience, registration authorities will refine the two word policy to strike an optimal balance between identity accuracy and public convenience.


Requiring a minimum of two words for names on birth certificates has been an important move to improve identification systems. While the transition has had temporary hassles, the enhanced accuracy and reduced ambiguity provide long-term benefits across society. Streamlined records better uphold rights, ensure entitlements, and strengthen security. As naming policies advance, the two word mandate looks to remain a keystone of maximizing identification integrity into the future. With some refinements to ease implementation, it can achieve its core objective of proper, unambiguous documentation for all.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Two Word Name Policy in Birth Registration

Here are some common questions people have about the two word name policy:

Q: Why can’t I just use a one word name?

A: Single word names create too much ambiguity for legal and administrative purposes. The two word policy reduces confusion and improves identification accuracy.

Q: What if my family traditionally only uses one name?

A: You will need to legally add a second name in accordance with the policy. Consider using a family surname or ancestral patronym.

Q: Do both names need to be words, or can one be an initial?

A: Initials orabbreviations do not qualify – registration authorities require both names to be complete words.

Q: Can the two words be connected, like a double barrelled name?

A: Yes, hyphenated or combined words like Anne-Marie or Samantha-Jo count as two names.

Q: How do I add a second name to my existing single word name?

A: You will have to apply for a formal name change on your birth certificate by providing supporting ID and documentation.

Q: What if I was already issued a birth certificate with one word?

A: You will still need to apply to amend the certificate and add a second name to become compliant.

Q: Is there a fee to apply to change my name to two words?

A: A small administrative fee may apply. Waivers are available for people who cannot afford the costs.

Q: Do I have to change my name across all documents?

A: Yes, once your birth name is updated, you need to change your official name everywhere for consistency.

Q: How does the two word policy apply for married names?

A: Your married name on official documents will also need to contain at least two words.