Thursday, April 8, 2010

Children born abroad to Malaysian mothers qualify for citizenship
Friday, 09 April 2010 09:42am
© The New Straits Times
Suganthi Suparmaniam

KUALA LUMPUR: Children born overseas to Malaysian women married to foreigners will be eligible for citizenship in a move by the government to be gender neutral.

Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mahmood Adam said there was no need to amend any laws and policies on the matter. He said it was sufficient to help the women administratively. The ministry is expected to issue a statement on the matter today. Yesterday, Senator Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil called for the government to confer citizenship on children born overseas to Malaysian women married to foreign spouses
to achieve gender equality. Currently, only children born overseas to foreign women married to Malaysian men are conferred Malaysian citizenship.

The women, family and community development minister said the time had come for the issue to be
addressed immediately. Non-governmental organisations welcomed the move, saying that the matter had long been seen as discriminatory to women.

Shahrizat said the ministry was providing feedback to the relevant ministries and agencies on the need to amend policies and laws. Since the amendments may take time, she said the government should introduce measures to facilitate application for citizenship for children born overseas to Malaysian women married to foreigners. “This initiative will overcome the difficulties faced by these women. “At the same, it will eliminate the quandary that Malaysian women have to face due to the inability of their children to obtain Malaysian citizenship, which in some instances leads Malaysian women to leave the country for a more secure future for their children,” she said in a statement.

Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah said the organisation had seen women married to foreigners who had to come back to the country to deliver their child here so that the child would be given a Malaysian citizenship. She said ultimately, the government should move towards amending the provision under the Federal Constitution so that Malaysian women enjoy the same rights as Malaysian
men. “A Malaysian woman here and in Poland should be able to enjoy the same rights. “We should facilitate it and they should be able to go to the Malaysian High Commission in the country to register their child’s birth,” she said when contacted.

Tenaganita director S. Florida welcomed Shahr izat’s call and added that it was long overdue. “I hope the offer is open to the foreign spouses as well. Not limited to the children
alone. Maybe for now, they can offer permanent citizenship to the spouses,” she said.