Malaysia Bagus News
Malaysia Bagus News
PETALING JAYA: The government’s labelling as “frivolous” a constitutional challenge by six mothers and a non-governmental organisation, seeking a declaration that Malaysian mothers may confer their citizenship to their children born to foreign spouses, is deeply concerning, says a statelessness expert.
Maalini Ramalo from the Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas, Malaysia (DHRRA) said the initial response from the government has proven that constitutional reforms to citizenship laws would be a challenge.
She told reporters the constitutional reform was crucial now that more Malaysian citizens are involved in cross-national marriages.
Ramalo said this civil suit was also important as it touched on the issue of the safety and protection of children and mothers who happened to be in abusive marriages or relationships.
“Without citizenship, the Malaysian mother and child’s route to safety in the event of abuse, and the passage back to their home country, are completely closed,” she said.
The DHRRA has been working to reduce statelessness in Malaysia by helping affected community members apply for citizenship.
Elaborating on this, Ramalo said the organisation has observed an increase in the number of children affected by statelessness, mainly caused by the immigration and citizenship laws, which she argued were discriminatory.
“We, therefore, hope the government will consider addressing the issue urgently.”
She also hoped that the suit would elicit support and action to remove barriers preventing Malaysian men from conferring citizenship to their children born out of wedlock.
“It is important that we address all forms of gender discrimination,” she said.
Lawyer Joshua Andran, who is among those acting for the plaintiffs, had argued in the application that the government and plaintiffs should actually be on the same side.
“The legal and constitutional arguments made in cases like this can be complex. But for the benefit of Malaysia’s citizenry and to encourage civic mindedness, the net effect of what we are seeking in this case is simply, equality between men and women on the crucial issue of the citizenship of children,” he said.
Andran said discrimination against women cannot be allowed to continue, adding that in this form, it has affected family units when parents are forced to separate from their children.
“This is only made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and movement control orders (MCOs), which have restricted movement and travel.”
The government last week attempted to strike out the child citizenship suit by the six mothers and Family Frontiers, with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) arguing that the claim was frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the process of court.
Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly said Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution only grants Malaysian fathers the right to confer citizenship to children born overseas to foreign spouses.
He also said international conventions such as the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the government is party to, are irrelevant because Parliament has yet to enact specific laws to incorporate the provisions.
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