Amend Constitution To Stop Discrimination Against Women Ngo Urges
Sarawak Women for Society (SWWS) urged all political parties to support amending the paternalistic terms used in the Federal Constitution as it was discriminatory against mothers.
This comes after the Court of Appeal last week overturned the 2021 landmark Kuala Lumpur High Court decision that Malaysian mothers have the same right as Malaysian fathers to confer citizenship by operation of law to children born overseas.
“SWWS is astonished and appalled by the recent majority decision of the Court of Appeal, which denies Malaysian women married to foreigners the same rights as Malaysian men to automatically pass on their citizenship to their children born overseas.
“This overturning of last year’s High Court ruling, which had agreed with the women, has left those affected broken-hearted and others bemused,” it said in a statement today.
The Council of Rulers had, on Nov 23 last year, approved the establishment of a committee that was given six months to work on an amendment to Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution on the acquisition of citizenship.
However, nothing has come forth since then.
Replace ‘father’ with ‘parent’
SWWS urged lawmakers to promptly amend the Federal Constitution, so the word “father” is replaced by “parent”.
“(This is) so the archaic, paternalistic wording is discarded, and there is no room left for ambiguity,” it said.
It brought up a 2001 case in which Parliament passed an amendment to Article 8 (2) of the Federal Constitutional stating that there would be no discrimination in laws on grounds of gender.
“Yet when the Federal Constitution itself is tested at the Court of Appeal, two out of the three judges gave precedence to the use of the word ‘father’, rather than ‘parent’, in Sections 1(b) and 1 (c) in the Second Schedule, which, as part of Article 14, specifies how citizenship is conveyed in such circumstances,” it said.
At the same time, Suhakam had supported the dissenting view made by judge S Nantha Balan that the status quo should be maintained for the overseas-born children of six Malaysian mothers - including Family Frontiers president Suriani Kempe - who had earlier obtained their Malaysian citizenship papers until the Federal Court decides on their final appeal.
Family Frontiers president Suriani KempeIn his dissent, Nantha said the lower court’s harmonious interpretation of the issue is correct because the traditional interpretation of the citizenship clause shows a plain conflict as the bloodline of Malaysian mothers is treated as inferior to that of Malaysian fathers.
SWWS echoed Nantha’s sentiment.
“The recent decision negates the previous assurances that the Constitution protects women against discrimination.
“Such blatant gender inequality is against the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which Malaysia is a signatory and the UN Sustainable Development Goals No 5 of which is to achieve gender equality.
“Malaysia’s non-compliance to these will be monitored closely by the UN body,” it said.
The organisation said these changes are urgently needed as children’s lives, identity, education and access to affordable healthcare were affected.
“The system for mothers to apply under Article 15 (2) is notoriously slow.
“Recently, in answer to a Parliamentary question, it was revealed that from 2018 to mid-2022, 3,407 applications under this category had been submitted, but only 26 were given an answer. Some 19 were successful and seven others were rejected,” it said.
“The reasons for rejection are rarely given, so asking women to be patient and use existing channels condemns their children to a wait that could be longer than their lives.
“This is totally unacceptable. For the sake of the children and their mothers, this discrimination must stop,” it added. - Mkini
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