Thursday, September 23, 2021

Why appeal to deny equal citizenship, lawyers group asks govt

Lawyers for Liberty says the government's concerns over national security are 'absurd'.

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Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today slammed the government’s move to appeal the recent court ruling allowing automatic citizenship for children born overseas to Malaysian mothers, saying there should be no gender discrimination in the application of the country’s laws.

In a statement, LFL coordinator Zaid Malek noted the home ministry’s previous claim that giving Malaysian women the right to bestow their citizenship on their children born overseas would threaten national security and sovereignty as they could be granted dual citizenship.

“It is absurd to imagine that a child could be a threat to national security on these grounds,” he said.

“This is not a good reason to deny Malaysian women the right to choose their children’s nationality, especially as the same concern is not applied to Malaysian men with foreign spouses, whose children can acquire citizenship in either of the parent’s country.”

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had ruled on Sept 9 that children born overseas to Malaysian women married to foreigners are automatically entitled to Malaysian citizenship by operation of law.

Judge Akhtar Tahir ruled that Malaysian women married to foreign men have the same right as Malaysian men married to foreign women in this regard.

The suit was filed on Dec 18 last year by the Association of Family Support & Welfare Selangor & Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) and six Malaysian women married to foreigners.

They sought six specific court orders, including a declaration that Section 1(b) and Section 1(c) of the Second Schedule, Part II of the Federal Constitution be read harmoniously with Article 8 (2) to include Malaysian mothers as a condition for children born abroad to be given automatic Malaysian citizenship.

Zaid said the “narrow interpretation” of this legal provision had caused many Malaysian mothers to “live in fear that their children could be rendered stateless”.

“The larger consideration here should be the effect on the child’s future should they be rendered stateless because of a gendered interpretation of the constitution,” he added.

Noting as well that Malaysia was one of only 25 countries that continue to discriminate against women in its citizenship laws, he urged the government to withdraw its appeal against the High Court ruling.

“It is unacceptable that the government has decided to prolong the difficulties that Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses face when acquiring Malaysian citizenship for their children born overseas,” he said.

“We believe that the High Court was correct to read Article 8 and Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution together as there cannot be gender discrimination in the application of our laws.

“It is time for Malaysia to move forward and join the majority of other countries in acknowledging that parents, regardless of gender, should have the right to pass down their nationality to their children.”

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