On Mother’s Day, group reminds govt of women’s vulnerability under citizenship law

The Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship says women who cannot obtain citizenship for their children born overseas face a host of problems.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship (MCEC) today reminded Putrajaya that the inability for mothers to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas has made women vulnerable.

It said the situation has been amplified by the Covid-19 crisis and urged the government to act on it.

MCEC said when Malaysian women cannot pass on citizenship to their children born overseas, it could lead to situations where they are compelled to rely on their foreign husbands’ citizenship for their children.

“This leads to situations where these women may be forced to live abroad and sometimes in abusive and vulnerable situations,” it said in its Mother’s Day message.

The pressure group said Malaysian mothers also face obstacles when it comes to returning home with their non-citizen children, including restrictions on their children’s right to stay, access to national schools and healthcare.

Hence, it said, these women opt to live in their husband’s country overseas, “making it difficult to leave toxic or abusive marriages”.

“Malaysian citizenship laws in effect infringe on women’s rights over their children, although they may be the principal caregiver,” it said.

MCEC said divorced Malaysian mothers with non-citizen children will also require the help of their foreign ex-husband to renew the passport of their children as long as their Malaysian citizenship applications are pending.

It said this process, could go on for years, with no guarantee of approval.

“The unequal treatment of women with regards to the passing on of citizenship to their children is a direct discrimination against Malaysian mothers,” it said.

It said the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the vulnerability of Malaysian women who are unable to obtain citizenship for their children.

This is because the group chooses to remain in high-risk countries instead of returning to Malaysia as their non-Malaysian children are generally issued short-term visas, especially without the presence of the foreign father.

It said not only are Malaysian mothers treated as unequal citizens by the law, they are also considered unequal guardians for their children by such discriminatory policies.

“On this Mother’s Day, we call upon the Malaysian government to amend provisions of the Federal Constitution which deny Malaysian mothers equal rights with respect to passing on citizenship to their children born overseas, on a similar basis as Malaysian fathers,” it said.

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