Sarawak women’s group wants ‘father’ replaced with ‘parent’ in federal constitution


SWWS made the appeal after the Court of Appeal ruled on August 5 in a majority decision that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers cannot automatically be Malaysian citizens.

KUCHING (8 Aug): The Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) calls on all political parties to support amending the Federal Constitution in paternalistic terms to ensure gender equality.

SWWS made the appeal after the Court of Appeal ruled on August 5 in a majority decision that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers cannot automatically be Malaysian citizens.

Along with other women’s groups, SWWS has called for the Federal Constitution to be quickly amended to replace the word ‘father’ with ‘parent’ to ensure that the archaic and paternalistic wording is rejected and that there is no more room for ambiguity.

“This change is urgently needed as children’s lives, identities, schooling and access to affordable health care are affected. The current system for mothers to apply under Article 15(2) is notoriously slow. Recently in response to a parliamentary question, it was revealed that from 2018 until mid-2022, 3,407 applications in this category had been submitted but only 26 had received a response. 19 were accepted and 7 rejected.

“The reasons for rejection are rarely given, so asking women to be patient and to use existing channels is to condemn children to a wait that can be longer than their life.

“This is totally unacceptable. In the interest of children and their mothers, this discriminatory action must be stopped urgently. We call on all political parties to quickly support the amendment of the Constitution,” SWWS said.

At the Court of Appeal hearing, Judges Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said and Datuk Azizah Nawawi ruled in favor of the government.

Datuk S Nantha Balan was the only judge on the panel who disagreed, pointing out that Malaysian citizenship laws discriminate against Malaysian women by not allowing them to pass citizenship to their children born in the stranger.

In this case, the government had appealed the High Court’s decision of September 9, 2021, which recognized that Malaysia’s citizenship laws were discriminatory against women and decided that Malaysian mothers whose children were born in foreigner should also be entitled to Malaysian citizenship.

SWWS expressed astonishment and dismay at the recent Court of Appeal ruling denying Malaysian women married to foreigners the same rights as Malaysian men to automatically pass their citizenship to their children born overseas.

This overturning of last year’s High Court ruling which found in favor of the women has left those affected heartbroken and others perplexed, he added.

“In 2001, Parliament passed an amendment to Section 8(2) of the Federal Constitution stating that there shall be no discrimination in Malaysian laws on the basis of sex.

“Yet when the Federal Constitution itself is tested in the Court of Appeals, two of the three justices prioritized the use of the word ‘father’, rather than ‘parent’, in Section 1(b) and 1(c) in the second schedule which, under section 14, specifies how citizenship is transmitted in such circumstances,” he said.

SWWS said it shared the view of Nantha Balan, who said the decision was “illogical, pervasive and demeaning to the rights and dignity of Malaysian mothers”.

SWWS said the Court of Appeal ruling nullifies previous assurances that Malaysia protects women from discrimination under its Constitution.

“Such gross gender inequality is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that Malaysia has signed and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), #5 of which is to achieve gender equality. Malaysia’s failure to comply with these obligations will be followed with concern by the UN body,” he added.


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