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Provide Malaysian women with the right to confer citizenship on their children born abroad

Photograph: Geralt/Pixabay

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The Malaysian Bar is concerned by the comments made by the Deputy Home Minister Ismail Mohamed Said on 3 December 2020 in Parliament that Malaysian mothers are unable to confer citizenship to their children born abroad to foreign spouses as this would encroach upon Malaysia’s national security.

Despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), Malaysia still maintains its reservations to Article 9(2) of Cedaw which grants women “equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.”

The Malaysian Bar therefore calls on the government to remove its reservations to Article 9(2) of Cedaw, and should acknowledge and adhere to the convention in order to safeguard the rights of women.

Currently, Article 14 of the Federal Constitution remains silent on the matter of mothers being granted equal rights in conferring citizenship to her children.

The Malaysian Bar strongly believes that there needs to be increased and intensified lobbying to pass a constitutional amendment to include the right of mothers to be able to confer Malaysian nationality on their children if they are born abroad. In a democracy that is built on the rule of law, equal rights should be provided to both men and women in order to ensure that justice is preserved.

There are many situations where Malaysian women with children born to foreign spouses wish to return to Malaysia upon a divorce or to seek employment, and they have to face undue hardship in securing citizenship for their children, as a result of existing laws and policies.

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The rule of law and principles of gender equality necessitate an amendment to the Federal Constitution and other relevant laws in safeguarding the rights of mothers to be able to confer citizenship on their children born abroad to foreign spouses.

Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

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