Tuesday, October 4

Association disappointed court ruled mums can’t pass citizenship to overseas-born children

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Family Frontiers president Suriani Kempe said the devastating interpretation of the Federal Constitution perpetuates gender discrimination. – Malay Mail photo

KUCHING (Aug 5): The Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) has called the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn a High Court ruling allowing mothers to pass on their citizenship to overseas-born children “extremely disappointing”.

President Suriani Kempe said the devastating interpretation of the Federal Constitution perpetuates gender discrimination.

“This is indeed a setback, but we will not be deterred. We will appeal this decision at the Federal Court, and continue to hold faith in our justice system.

“We stand firm in the belief that one day our government will see us, Malaysian women, as we see ourselves—as equal citizens, and that our children have just as much a right to be Malaysian as the children of Malaysian men,” she said in a statement today.

In a 2-1 decision in favour of the government, the Court of Appeal stated that the word “father” in Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution and its related provisions in the Second Schedule is clear and unambiguous and cannot be construed to include ‘mother’.

Additionally, the grievances of Malaysian mothers can only be remedied through an amendment to the Federal Constitution by Parliament, and not via the courts.

Suriani pointed out that for over 60 years, while Malaysian men have enjoyed the right to automatically pass down their citizenship to their overseas-born children, while Malaysian women and their children have unnecessarily suffered as a result of the nation’s gender-discriminatory citizenship laws, policies, and practices.

“While many mothers hoped that the Court of Appeal would side with Malaysian women, this setback means that the fight for overseas-born children’s safety and well-being goes on.

“The inability to confer citizenship on a child, on the basis of gender, is both disheartening and dehumanising. Women and children are forced to endure prolonged hardships, including being trapped in abusive situations and facing unequal access to fundamental rights,” she said.

Family Frontiers called on the government to comply with its international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

“Malaysian women must not be made to wait any longer to be treated as equal citizens. The government still has an opportunity to correct the disproportionate and ongoing harm against Malaysian women and their children for over 60 years.

“Having already committed to amend Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution by July 2022, it must now honour its promise to instantly remedy this injustice,” she said.

Datuk S Nantha Balan, who gave the dissenting judgement, viewed that there is a plain and apparent conflict between Article 8(2) and Article 14(1)(b) and its related provisions of the Federal Constitution which implies that the bloodline of the mother is inferior to the bloodline of the father.

He also added that, “it is illogical, perverse and degrading to the dignity of Malaysian women”.

Family Frontiers is a registered entity established to advance, promote and strengthen the family unit so that no family is left behind.

It acts as an umbrella body for the Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG), which supports and advocates for the rights of foreign spouses married to Malaysian citizens and mobilises action for the Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship.