Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the government for citing national security concerns in the debate over citizenship for children born abroad to Malaysian women with foreign spouses, calling as well for a constitutional amendment to provide such women with the same rights as men.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek said the primary consideration should be the rights of Malaysian women to have their children granted citizenship by operation of law.
“This can be done by amending Part II of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution to substitute the word ‘father’ with ‘parent’.
“Such an amendment would be consistent with the spirit of the constitution as Article 8(2) itself has already disallowed any discrimination based on gender,” he said in a statement.
Under the Federal Constitution, children born overseas to Malaysian fathers are automatically granted citizenship.
Those born to Malaysian mothers, meanwhile, need to apply for citizenship.
Deputy Home Minister Ismail Mohamed Said had argued in the Dewan Rakyat that in other countries, children born overseas follow their father’s citizenship, and as such, there could be dual citizenship for children born abroad to Malaysian women with foreign husbands.
He also cited concerns over national security.
But Zaid said it was “ridiculous” to suggest that “newborns could in any way threaten Malaysia’s security and sovereignty simply because they could be granted dual citizenship”.
“If that is truly the case, the government must also bar Malaysian men with foreign spouses from granting citizenship to their children over the same ‘security concerns’,” he added.
“The same ‘risk’ that there may be dual citizenship also exists in relation to children of Malaysian men with foreign spouses. Why discriminate against women?”