Ministry wants automatic citizenship for kids of Malaysian women born overseas

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh with Malaysian mothers who gave birth overseas, Foreign Spouses Support Group members and ministry officials at the Forum on Gender Equal Citizenship in Petaling Jaya today.

PETALING JAYA: The women, family and community development ministry today urged the home ministry to review the relevant laws to allow the children of Malaysian women who are born overseas to obtain automatic citizenship.

Deputy minister Hannah Yeoh said this would be in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

“We have asked the home ministry to review the laws, and we want to ensure that policies affecting families are changed and amended to protect the children, especially,” she said at a forum on gender-equal citizenship here.

Her ministry has also asked for a review of four other issues pertaining to citizenship, namely the use of DNA as evidence for citizenship approval, the prioritisation of stateless children under the care of the welfare department, citizenship for adopted children once the adoptive parents receive the court order for adoption, and an explanation for every citizenship application that is rejected.

“Follow-up meetings have been called with the home ministry,” she said, adding that it is a work in progress supported by the foreign ministry.

Article 14 of the Federal Constitution presently limits the right of Malaysian mothers to obtain citizenship by operation of law for children born overseas.

They must undergo a lengthy registration process while men are able to obtain automatic citizenship for their children.

Yeoh said her ministry has met with the home minister on the matter, and that things look “quite positive”.

“They say they will look into it, so we are waiting,” she said, adding that the Pakatan Harapan manifesto had promised to review laws relating to gender equality to ensure that every woman enjoys equality under the law.

Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship lead coordinator Bina Ramanand.

Bina Ramanand, the lead coordinator of the Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship said they are pushing for a constitutional amendment to Article 14, to replace the word “father” with “at least one parent”. This would indicate that either the father or the mother can rightfully confer citizenship on their children.

“Twenty-five countries have denied women the right to pass on their nationality to their own children on an equal basis as men.

“Malaysia should not be left behind,” she said.