KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Malaysian mothers who are seeking to maintain a High Court’s recognition of their children as Malaysian citizens have found strong support for their online petition to the government, with 10,000 persons signing in about 24 hours.
Yesterday, Malaysian mothers experienced a setback in their journey of many years to have the country finally recognise that their children born abroad too can be called Malaysians.
The Malaysian government had yesterday filed an appeal against a landmark court decision.
The appeal was filed just days after the High Court’s historic September 9 decision, which said the Federal Constitution’s citizenship provisions should not discriminate against Malaysian mothers and that their children born overseas too could be citizens by operation of law.
The court ruling had effectively removed a decades-long inequality that allowed Malaysian fathers with foreign spouses to pass on their citizenship to children born outside of Malaysia, but denied the same right to Malaysian mothers married to foreigners.
In response to the government’s appeal, Family Frontiers — which together with six Malaysian mothers had filed the lawsuit — last night launched the online petition on the website Change.org.
In the brief petition, Family Frontiers said it viewed the government’s appeal as a betrayal of rights that are long overdue to Malaysian women.
The petition pointed out that the court decision — which the government is appealing — had affirmed Malaysian mothers’ equal rights and opened the door for their children to no longer suffer unequal access to basic rights such as education and healthcare.
“The judgment lifted the anxiety that plagued us with the uncertainty of our children’s status, well-being and future.
“The government, by appealing against this decision, has delayed justice not just to Malaysian women, but their children and their extended families. Justice delayed is justice denied.
“We call on Malaysians, both in the country and abroad, to sign this petition calling on the government to withdraw its appeal against women’s equal right to citizenship,” the petition read.
In about 15 hours since the online petition was launched, the signature drive had already gathered 5,000 supporters.
At around 8.15pm or about 24 hours since the petition was launched, 10,001 signatures were recorded.
The online petition is currently addressed to six decision-makers, namely Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin, National Registration Department director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
Currently, Malaysian mothers who are married to foreigners have to apply for their children born abroad to have Malaysian citizenship, a process that is said to typically take years before the Malaysian government responds and with repeated rejections possible.
Under the long process, there is no guarantee that the Malaysian mother’s child would become a Malaysian citizen as the government can reject such applications.
This has resulted in various difficulties for families where the mother is a Malaysian and the father a non-Malaysian, including situations where an overseas-born child would have to go through the process of waiting for years in applying for citizenship while their other siblings are Malaysians because they were born in the country.
The hardship for such families has also increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, as there were pregnant Malaysian mothers who had no choice but to give birth overseas amid Covid-19 infection risks and border closures, while there were also situations where non-Malaysian children could not reunite with their families during such border closures or had to go through the process of renewing their papers to be allowed to be in Malaysia.
In comparison, Malaysian fathers would be able to confer their citizenship to children who are born abroad, which means they are automatically recognised as citizens and do not have to go through the same arduous and lengthy process of applying for citizenship.
Civil society groups have previously said that Malaysia is one of only 25 countries in the world that discriminates against women by not giving them the equal rights of passing on their citizenship to their children.