Doubts the bill will “see the light of day” unless it is supported by parliamentarians.
Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said said the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on women, children and social development is willing to file a private member’s bill for a constitutional amendment to provide citizenship to overseas-born children through their Malaysian mothers.
However, Azalina, who chairs the committee, said she doubts the bill will “see the light of day” unless it is supported by parliamentarians.
“Members of Parliament, we reached a historical unanimous vote for a constitutional amendment to support the passing of the anti-party hopping law,” she said in a statement.
“If and when a bill is presented to us to make a minor amendment to the constitution to allow for both fathers and mothers to confer citizenship to their children, I trust that we can unanimously agree to do the same.
“Just as party hopping is unjust and unethical, so is leaving thousands of children stateless and in limbo.”
The High Court ruled last September that a constitutional provision for citizenship derived from Malaysian fathers should be extended to cover mothers or either parent.
However, the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal on Aug 5. In a majority ruling, the court held that the constitutional provision referred to the biological father and could not be extended to include the mother or parents.
It was up to Parliament, not the court, to rewrite the constitution, the judges said.
Law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar then said many steps were required in the process to amend the Federal Constitution and provide automatic citizenship to overseas-born children of Malaysian women.
He said “it is not as easy as many claim – not just a matter of amending one word (father)”.
He reiterated that Putrajaya must wait until the Federal Court decides on an appeal filed by affected mothers whose suit to obtain citizenship for their children was rejected by the Court of Appeal.
Azalina added that 1.86 million Malaysian women are living overseas, citing reasons for citizenship issues as one of the main factors deterring their return to Malaysia.
“This figure represents 12% of the total female population of 15.6 million in Malaysia.
“This makes Malaysia the country with the second highest regional rate of women migrating with 57%, second only to Thailand, and above the global average of 48%,” she said.
She further explained that the issue of citizenship is not a mere issue of gender inequality.
“Sexist nationality laws lead to other human rights violations.
“Women and children have been reportedly trapped in abusive marriages when their or their children’s citizenship is dependent on their spouse.
“Such laws also make it difficult for a mother to claim child custody or gain access to her children if her marriage ends in separation or divorce.
“Underage girls are at greater risk of forced marriages as families may view this as a way to gain legal status.
“Such laws separate families and impose restrictions on freedom of movement, which has been repeatedly reported, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions,” she said.
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