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Plain discrimination to deny citizenship to children of Malaysian women married to foreigners

Photograph: Geralt/Pixabay

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Aliran condemns the discriminatory practice of the Malaysian government in denying citizenship for children of Malaysian women married to foreigners.

Deputy Home Minister Ismail Mohamad Said reportedly told the Dewan Rakyat the reason the Malaysian government prevents a Malaysian woman married to a foreign spouse from conferring Malaysian nationality on her child born abroad. This was to prevent dual citizenship issues, leading to concerns over national security and sovereignty, he said.

This statement reveals the government’s unequal and unfair treatment towards women compared to Malaysian men with foreign spouses who are accorded the right to apply for citizenship for their children.

Such discrimination is a travesty of justice in a social system like ours where all men and women are supposed to be equal before the law. It goes against Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

This lopsided treatment is also reflective of a society where patriarchy is still very much imbibed by men and women. Nowadays, there is so much cross-border travel especially when women study, work or travel abroad. The times where a woman follows her husband after they marry have changed. Why have such archaic thinking in these times?

While the deputy minister has said that mothers can make applications under Article 15(2) of the Federal Constitution, the fact is the process is difficult and arbitrary in its outcome.

Furthermore, this policy will contribute to the brain drain problem as Malaysian women decide to migrate to their husbands’ countries for the sake of the children. Again, not all women facing this problem may have this option. With a change in circumstances, a Malaysian mother may find herself back in Malaysia but her child or children may not have Malaysian citizenship or have different citizenships.

This policy has caused so much hardship to thousands of women who face this problem. Why continue to penalise and punish Malaysian women and their children in this manner?

The issue is simply a matter of discrimination against women. No amount of huffing and puffing about dual citizenship and concerns over national security or sovereignty can detract from this fact.

READ MORE:  Mothers win case for equal citizenship rights

What a shame the Perikatan National government sees it fit to continue with this policy when it has the power and opportunity to correct a clear form of discrimination against women. Surely it can do better.

Aliran executive committee
4 December 2020
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