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LETTER | Discrimination faced by Malaysian mothers

LETTER | The Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) is dumbfounded that the Malaysian government has appealed against a recent court decision that upheld six mothers’ legal action to have their children born overseas to foreign fathers be automatically entitled to Malaysian citizenship.

The government said the mothers' action was "frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court processes".

The mothers brought their action as unlike Malaysian men who marry foreign women and have children when living abroad, they (women) do not have the automatic right to pass on their Malaysian citizenship to their children automatically by birth.

Women are clearly discriminated against which is counter to Article 8 (2) of the Federal Constitution which disallows gender discrimination. The problem occurs as this part of the constitution was amended later to include gender and the inclusion of Schedule 1 (b) (c) and Article 14 which deal with citizenship for persons born outside of Malaysia. 

Within these schedules, only fathers are mentioned, not mothers or either parent.

The judge who held the first hearing on May 6 had decreed that the case should continue in his court next month and not be struck off as the government had requested. 

 He was very clear in his view that there was discrimination and so the government should proceed by giving justification why the discrimination in these circumstances should be allowed after which he would consider the case on its merits.

SWWS cannot understand why the federal government, rather than allowing these important constitutional issues to be considered by the law, instead wants the issue to be dismissed. This is not a frivolous issue – it affects children and family lives – and causes great distress and uncertainty.

Transnational marriage is becoming more common in these global days and there are many reasons why women can be abroad at the time of birth, including for study, and then return home. 

Why should they and their children face discrimination? Had the child been born in Malaysia, he or she would automatically be given Malaysian citizenship as the constitution, for these cases, clearly states "either parent" and not the father exclusively.

In SWWS’s view, the discussion about how to resolve the disharmony in the Federal Constitution needs to be heard in the courts and not be blocked by labelling women’s concerns over their rights as frivolous. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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