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Malaysian Court Reverses Historic Decision on Women’s Citizenship

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After appealing a lower court ruling that mothers should be permitted to convey their citizenship to children born abroad, the government is found to be in the right.

The landmark ruling that Malaysian women should be entitled to pass on their citizenship to children born abroad in the same way as Malaysian males has been overturned by the country’s appeals court.

By a vote of 2–1, the judges agreed with the government and overturned the High Court’s September 2021 finding that Malaysian women had the same legal right to grant citizenship to their children as males.

 In Malaysia, Article 14(1)(b) of the constitution expressly grants fathers the automatic right to confer citizenship on their children born abroad, but it does not mention mothers. This provision is the case decider in this case.

In December 2020, six mothers who had been impacted by the clause and the advocacy group Family Frontiers contested the article’s validity, asking that judges should interpret it in accordance with the concept of gender equality.

The group’s attorneys declared they would appeal the decision to Malaysia’s highest court, the Federal Court.

The home minister earlier stated that the administration challenged the High Court’s ruling to buy more time to change the constitution to support mothers, starting with creating a new parliamentary committee to look into the matter in December of last year.

A parliamentarian from the opposition, Kasthuri Patto, urged the administration to proceed with the constitutional reform and guarantee equality for women.

She tweeted in Malay, “PM @IsmailSabri60, do the right thing.” “Schedule a special meeting of Parliament and change the Federal Constitution.”

After the lower court’s decision, the six women who brought the case were able to get citizenship for their children who were born abroad. Still, the appeals court ruled that further applications should be postponed until the Federal Court issues its ruling.

Five hundred ninety-one submissions under Article 14(1)(b) from children born overseas to Malaysian mothers between 2021 and July of this year were made, the home minister stated in parliament last month. Some were settled, but the majority were still open.

The Malaysian government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995, and it amended its constitution to include the principle of gender equality in 2001. However, it made a reservation concerning CEDAW with regard to issues involving nationality.

The administration asserts that citizenship-related issues are outside the purview of the courts and that the amendment on gender equality does not apply to nationality.

Another lawmaker, Charles Santiago, called the decision “regressive.”

He stated on Twitter that it could lead to marginalization, conflict, and displacement, in addition to being a breach of the CRC. “We need to be quite embarrassed by ourselves right now.”

Malaysia is one of just 28 nations that still forbids women from passing on their nationality to their offspring on an equal footing with males, according to the international human rights organization Equality Now.

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