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4:32pm 08/08/2022
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Gender equality and children’s rights
By:Sin Chew Daily

We pray that the government and the honourable MPs will not keep the poor mothers and their children waiting too long. Get the Constitution amended soonest and return them their deserved rights!

The Court of Appeal recently voted 2-1 that foreign born children of Malaysian women married to foreigners could not automatically become Malaysian citizens. The ruling has deeply disappointed many mothers and children.

Last September, the High Court delivered the good news to children awaiting their citizenship here, when judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir ruled that the children born overseas to Malaysian women with foreign spouses could automatically become Malaysian citizens.

The landmark verdict was well received by all quarters back then. Unfortunately, the government decided to appeal against the ruling to have it overturned.

Generally, a child born here will automatically become a citizen of this country, and it is therefore hard for us to feel the pain of people deprived of citizenship. Some of the children born overseas to Malaysian mothers and foreign fathers are facing all kinds of problems here because of the nationality issue, many even denied access to education. And due to absence of citizenship, their residential status here is also precarious, making their lives unsettled.

Even though they can still apply to the home ministry for citizenship, the process is extremely time-consuming and the success rate is painfully low.

Home minister Hamzah Zainudin disclosed last October that based on JPN’s records, only 21 out of 2,352 applications received between 2018 and October 11 last year from Malaysian mothers for their foreign born children’s citizenship, was successful. In other words, the success rate was extremely slim.

The reversal of the High Court ruling this time deals a heavy blow on the mothers and children involved. Nonetheless, the whole issue has not come to a close yet, as Family Frontiers has vowed to appeal to the Federal Court.

Meanwhile, the Parliament can also amend the relevant provision in the Federal Constitution to allow children born abroad to Malaysian women with foreign spouses to be granted Malaysian citizenship.

Court of Appeal judge Kamaludin Md. Said explained that the word “father” in the Second Schedule of Part II of the Federal Constitution meant the biological father and could not be extended to include the mother or parents.

Based on such rationale, a constitutional amendment to include also the word “mother” should solve this problem once and for all.

Former women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil urges all political leaders to expedite the amendment of the relevant provision in the Federal Constitution so as not to favor only one particular side.

It is our sincere hope that Shahrizat’s call could be echoed by all lawmakers on either side of the political divide, lay down their differences and work together to eliminate discrimination against women with foreign spouses so that their children born overseas could also be granted Malaysian citizenship.

Where this is concerned, indeed Malaysian women have been accorded unequal treatment at this moment, given the fact foreign born children to Malaysian fathers and foreign mothers will be granted Malaysian citizenship.

Undeniably, this is a form of gender discrimination. All Malaysians irrespective of sex, should be entitled to equitable rights and privileges. Men should not be given priority and women should not be disadvantaged.

So far the authorities have failed to provide a reasonable explanation why in this particular issue Malaysian women cannot enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts. Such inequality must be stopped now!

The issue entails not just the issue of gender equality but also the rights of foreign born children.

Will the people’s representatives sitting comfortably inside the august house please listen to the voices of these mothers and children, try to understand their plight and take actions to push for the constitutional amendment?

Although we are now going through a period of political instability with the election war to be launched anytime now, what needs to be done must still be done!

We pray that the government and the honorable MPs will not keep the poor mothers and their children waiting too long. Get the Constitution amended soonest and return them their deserved rights!

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