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Malaysia’s Court of Appeal overturns ruling on citizenship for kids born abroad to mums with foreign spouses

Malaysia’s Court of Appeal overturns ruling on citizenship for kids born abroad to mums with foreign spouses
Malaysia's Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, which also houses the Court of Appeal. (Photo: CNA/Vincent Tan)

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has ruled that the overseas-born children of Malaysian women married to foreigners cannot automatically be Malaysian citizens.
 
In a majority decision on Friday (Aug 5), the court ruled in favour of the government's bid to overturn a landmark High Court ruling which said that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses were entitled to Malaysian citizenship.
 
Malaysian media reported that the Court of Appeal’s decision was delivered by a three-judge bench chaired by Judge Kamaludin Md Said.
 
He and Judge Azizah Nawawi gave the majority decision, while Judge Nantha Balan disagreed.
 
The Malaysian government had appealed against the High Court's September 2021 decision, which recognised that Malaysia’s citizenship laws discriminated against women.
 
The High Court also ruled that Malaysian mothers whose children are born overseas should also be entitled to Malaysian citizenship.
 
In the Court of Appeal on Friday, Judge Kamaludin and Judge Azizah took the view that the word "father" in the Second Schedule of Part II of the Federal Constitution meant the biological father and cannot be extended to include the mother or parents.
 
It is up to the country’s parliament, not the court, to rewrite the constitution, said the two judges as quoted by the New Straits Times.
 
In his dissenting statement, Judge Balan, however, said that Article 14 of the constitution, which provided for the granting of citizenship to children born outside the federation, was discriminatory as it violated the equality provision.
 
He said that based on the present legal status, the mother's bloodline is made to look inferior to the father’s, the New Straits Times added.

WE WILL NOT BE DETERRED, SAYS GROUP FOR AFFECTED MUMS 

The Court of Appeal’s decision was received with dismay by Malaysian women impacted by the issue of their children's citizenship status.
 
Family Frontiers, the group that has been fighting the case on behalf of the affected mothers, said they are disappointed with the ruling.
 
It added that the group will not be deterred to fight on by filing an appeal to the Federal Court, Malaysia’s apex court.
 
“Today’s decision is extremely disappointing, more so that our lives and the lives of our children continue to be affected by this devastating interpretation of the Federal Constitution that perpetuates gender discrimination,” said Family Frontiers in a statement on Friday.
 
Its president Suriani Kempe said the grievances of Malaysian mothers can only be remedied through an amendment to the Federal Constitution by parliament, and not via the courts.
 
"We stand firm in the belief that one day our government will see us, Malaysian women, as we see ourselves - as equal citizens - and that our children have just as much a right to be Malaysian as the children of Malaysian men," she said.
 
She added that the inability to confer citizenship on a child on the basis of gender results in women and children being forced to endure prolonged hardships, such as being trapped in abusive situations and facing unequal access to fundamental rights. 

Source: CNA/ih(tx)

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