BY UMSU PRESS
Malaysia Women's Citizenship Right for Their Children: Does Gender Equality Exist in the Constitution?| UMSU Press
On 9th September 2021, a landmark ruling was made, the High Court ruled that Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses could automatically pass on their citizenship to their children born outside Malaysia.
What happened before the judgement?
Previously in Malaysia, women were not granted equal privilege as men. This is because the women with foreign spouses do not have the right to pass their Malaysian citizenship to their children who were born overseas or abroad. This discrimination had caused tangible troubles for those women and especially their children, as the children are not given access to Malaysian citizen welfares or rights such as residency, education, and health care. In short, there is an inequality between men and women here in Malaysia.
Currently, Malaysia is one of 25 countries in the world that denies women’s right to confer nationality on their children based on an equal basis as men. Also, Malaysia is one of 50 countries in the world that denies women the equal right to confer nationality on their spouses.
Why and what caused the above?
In the old times, women were discriminated against, including the constitution was not noticing the need for equality between men and women. In the old constitution before 2001, equality between gender did not exist, as prior to the amendment, Article 8 (2) read that
“...there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law...”
After the amendment of Article 8(2), equality between genders finally exists.
“...there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law...”
Simultaneously, the ignorance of inequality also exists in the Federal Constitution Second Schedule, Part II, Section 1(b) which states that children who were born outside the Federation but whose father is a citizen are granted citizenship.
In other words, women are discriminated against, as mothers do not have the same privilege as the fathers. Women cannot pass their citizenship to their born overseas children, and hence there is the conflict between it and the amendment made in Article 8(2). Ironically, the government did not notice or call for an amendment to solve the inequality for the past 20 years until the previous judgement.
How is the judgement made?
The Court ruled that Article 4(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution together with the Second Schedule, Part II, Section 1(b), pertaining to citizenship rights, must be read in harmony with Article 8(2), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.
High Court Justice Akhtar Tahir ruled that the word "father" must therefore be read to include mothers and that their children are entitled to citizenship by operation of law. Justice Akhtar said the Courts are empowered to interpret the law to uphold the spirit of the Federal Constitution and ensure justice.
The President of Family Frontiers Suri Kempe said in a statement “This judgement recognises Malaysian women’s equality, and marks one step forward to a more egalitarian and just Malaysia”. Terrific news, it had made a lot of Malaysian mothers happy.
How did the government react?
Unfortunately, the government has appealed the High Court's ruling that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers and foreign fathers must be automatically conferred citizenship a few days after the excitement.
Lawyer Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar said that they had been served a copy of the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) notice of appeal.
How did the public react to the appeal?
Family Frontiers president Suri Kempe said the process of amending the Federal Constitution may take a long time but she was satisfied that the government has signalled its intention to address the issue. She urged the government to withdraw the appeal against the Sept 9 High Court ruling that the government must grant citizenship by operation of law to children born overseas to Malaysian mothers.
“This injustice doesn’t make legal, moral or economic sense in the 21st century. The High Court, 29,000 signatories of a petition, MPs from across party lines, ministers and even the Sultan of Johor agrees with us.”
“Withdrawing the appeal against the High Court order sends a signal that the government will stand with Malaysian mothers and address the issue immediately,” she said.
What do we hope?
More than ten thousand Malaysian mothers and their children are suffering due to the discrimination and injustice interpretation of the Federal Constitution. There is no legitimate standing reason to give only fathers the privilege of passing their citizenship to their children.
Government has to take immediate actions by making amendments to the Constitution and withdraw the appeal to prevent any form of discrimination from existing in Malaysia as Malaysia is a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The discrimination must be stopped!
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2021
👉 Check out @umsupress to find out more.
👉 Follow @umsupress to get yourself updated with the latest news and students activities!
#umsu #kmum #umsupress #universitimalaya #Malaysia #citizenship #genderequality #women #children