KUALA LUMPUR, 9 Sept 2021:
The Kuala Lumpur high court today recognized the right of Malaysian mothers to confer citizenship to their children born abroad.
Women who had children overseas to foreign men had been barred from automatically passing citizenship to their children, however the same rule had not applied to Malaysian men.
A group of mothers challenged Malaysia’s citizenship regulations, arguing these breached the Constitution. Campaigners had long deemed them discriminatory and against guarantees of equality.
Judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir today ruled the relevant article of the Constitution must be read in harmony with those that prohibit discrimination based on gender, and that therefore the term ‘father’ must be read to include the mother, plaintiffs Family Frontiers said in a statement.
“The judge also made an order that all the relevant authorities must issue relevant documents, like identity cards, to these children in recognition of this effect,” said lawyer Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar.
“This judgment recognises Malaysian women’s equality, and marks one step forward to a more egalitarian and just Malaysia,” said Suri Kempe, Family Frontiers’ president.
Although mothers could apply for citizenship for their children under 21 years of age once they returned to the country, they were rarely approved by the government and the children often faced issues in accessing public services.
The clause had been applied for decades after the country achieved independence in 1957.
The Washington-based Pew Research Center notes that 26 countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, currently have laws that prohibit or limit women’s rights to pass citizenship on to a child.