Amend Article 14 to provide permanent solution for unequal citizenship — Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship

OCTOBER 17 — The Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship led by Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG) notes that the Home Minister has stated that the Ministry is working to improve the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of citizenship application for children born overseas to Malaysian women. This is in reference to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s response to the oral question (18) by Datuk Sri Azalina Othman Said [Pengerang] in parliament on 9th October 2019.

While we welcome this initiative, we would like to insist that there is a dire need for a permanent solution to this problem as an administrative amendment is merely temporary. What we need is a constitutional amendment. Previously, in the year 2010, the then Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin made an announcement on a “new regulation implemented administratively” to enable Malaysian women to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas without a hassle, including the appointment of consulate officers to specifically assist with the process. However, there have been no improvements till date.

Women are simply not recognised as equal citizens by the law. We would like to point out that this is evident the moment Malaysian men and women have to rely on separate constitutional provisions to confer citizenship on their children born overseas when they marry a foreigner. Men simply need to “register” the birth of the child and have a streamlined process ready via Article 14(1) that only lasts a few days to weeks, whereas women have to “apply” for citizenship via Article 15(2) that is fraught with rejections and delays, most often for years with no guarantee of approval.

The Home Minister also raised the issue of “dual citizenship” in the case of Article 15(2). We continue to see that the ‘dual citizenship’ argument is only raised in the case of mothers but is totally ignored when it comes to fathers. While we acknowledge Malaysia’s policy of single citizenship, we would like to state that this disregards the fact that children of Malaysian men are automatically conferred Malaysian citizenship upon registration, regardless of whether the child also obtains citizenship automatically from the foreign mother’s country.

If the concern of “dual citizenship” and “national security” arises in the case of 15(2), why is it not questioned in the case of 14(1)?

The inequality in citizenship laws implicitly endorses the notion of women as inferior and second-class citizens while contributing to women’s unequal status in the society. The Government of Malaysia has the obligation to respect and uphold the rights of women.

We therefore urge the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Malaysia to urgently consider amending Article 14 and the related Schedule of the Federal Constitution to ensure that Malaysian women have equal rights to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas by ‘operation of law’ as Malaysian men. Doing so will ensure that there is no room for discrimination on the basis of gender when it comes to citizenship.

Extending equal citizenship rights to Malaysian women will allow for them to return home, in some cases from toxic marriages and to exercise a choice of living in Malaysia, a choice that Malaysian men enjoy as their right.

But equally important, it also simply allows the children of Malaysian women to become full-fledged Malaysian citizens without the insecurity of having to leave the country one day.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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