Kasthuri Patto on the best Merdeka gift for children

Kasthuri says stateless children are often subjected to “bureaucratic nonsense”.

KUALA LUMPUR: Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto wants a moratorium on child marriage application and stateless children in foster homes aged four and above to be granted citizenship.

Saying this Merdeka should be dedicated to children, Kasthuri noted that the nation was rocked in June when news of an 11-year-old girl being “married off” to a 41-year-old man became viral on social media.

Added to this was news of children being victims of trafficking, sexual violence, rape and incest, she said.

“To date, we are facing hundreds of thousands of stateless children who had been born out of wedlock, born to refugees, children who grow up on the streets, and even children in foster homes – all of whom will eventually grow up to be stateless adults.”

The Wanita DAP publicity secretary said stateless children were often subjected to “bureaucratic nonsense” which denied them the right to education, in spite of provisions in the law allowing them to do so, healthcare, as well as the right to be protected from any form of harm or danger, such as being forcefully married off at a young age.

“Little and large Napoleons continue to dictate whether a child is allowed or not to attend school, according to their whims and fancies and abusing their power which was a culture that had been inbred by the previous Barisan Nasional regime. Therefore, any attempt to toy with the future of these children must be blocked with immediate and urgent action.

“For this reason, I call on the home ministry to grant citizenship to children in foster homes when they reach the age of four, if they have not been adopted, to facilitate the process of them stepping into school life with no hiccups, hindrance and obstacles to obtain education like any other child born in Malaysia.”

Also, she said, all pending citizenship approvals for children must be expedited “to prevent them from feeling unwanted in their own country”.

She said the fundamental dilemma for these children was citizenship, which would at least guarantee them access to education, affordable healthcare and protection.

Regarding child marriages, Kasthuri said concerted efforts and participation from members of society were needed to create awareness so that such practices would end.

She called for a moratorium on all applications of marriages until amendments to the law on fixing 18 as the minimum age of marriage, “with no exceptions”, was passed in the Dewan Rakyat and in individual state shariah and customary law bodies.

In this regard, she applauded the call by Ismail Yahya, former Terengganu chief shariah judge, to fix 18 as the minimum age for Muslims to marry.

Carrying out her suggestions, Kasthuri said, would give such children Merdeka, “smashing any shackles that bind, oppress and strip away their rights as children who need and deserve protection, care and love in our Malaysia Baru”.