A Malaysian mother
May I firstly offer my sincerest appreciation to home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as it was through him that my son is now a Malaysian citizen.
Although I married a foreigner, please know that I never intended to settle down abroad. My work gave me an international assignment for my career development, and it was during this period that I gave birth to my child. It was only when I went to the Malaysian embassy to register his birth that I was told that Malaysian women, who are married to non-citizen spouses, do not have the same right as Malaysian men in conferring citizenship to their overseas-born children.
I was told I could apply for his citizenship and the results would come in “a few years”.
What followed then were many years of torment: from the mental anguish of not knowing my son’s fate and future (when I always wanted him to be a Malaysian like me) to the many administrative processes I had to go through to renew his visa for him to stay with me when I returned to Kuala Lumpur.
It was truly saddening that a golden opportunity at work also became a source of such great frustration and exhaustion. But I am thankful that this chapter of mine and my son’s life has finally been put to a rest.
Painful as it was to endure, I met a group of mothers in a similar predicament, who are in even more distressing situations.
These are among the true situations that I have come across:
- A mother with a non-citizen child who has special needs, who is struggling to afford to pay for private treatment as her child is ineligible for public healthcare.
- Women who were leaving abusive relationships having to face additional stress after the child’s father sought custody, claiming that the mother has no means to support the child in Malaysia as the child is a non-citizen.
- A lady who hid her very pregnant body, and risked her life and that of her unborn child, so that her second child could be Malaysian, to avoid the same circumstances as her first child.
There are many more heartbreaking stories. Hence, while my prayers have been answered for my son, it is still my fervent hope that the government will proceed, without further delay, with the constitutional amendment to grant Malaysian women the ability to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children. All MPs and senators must vote to support it when it is tabled.
Without citizenship, impacted children struggle to access affordable healthcare, education and many other basic needs.
Every woman, and her child, needs protection and it is with your kindness and political will that we can allow Malaysia to be a fair and just country for all.
With sincere appreciation,
The writer is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.