Justice delayed is justice denied, group says


The official government seal marks the main gate of the federal court in Kuala Lumpur. Last week, several Malaysian mothers won a legal battle for the right to pass their nationality to their children born abroad, in a landmark court decision hailed by activists as a giant step toward gender equality. Photo: AP/Vincent Thian

Family Frontiers, the non-government organisation championing Malaysian mothers, is "deeply disappointed" by the Government's move to appeal against the recent Kuala Lumpur High Court decision that affirmed a Malaysian woman's right to confer citizenship automatically on their children born overseas on an equal basis with Malaysian men.

"We are appalled and deeply disappointed by the Government’s move to appeal against the High Court decision. We see this move as a betrayal of the rights that are long overdue to Malaysian women," the NGO said in a statement.

The group said that it was especially shocked at the appeal since three federal ministers, including the de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had earlier openly supported the High Court's decision.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun said the decision shone a new light on the aspirations of women. Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Annuar Musa posted on Instagram that this was “great news”. Sarawak’s Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Early Childhood Minister Datuk Sri Fatimah Abdullah, along with Wanita MCA Sabah also welcomed this historic decision, the statement said.

Family Frontiers said that while the Government had the opportunity to "embrace the High Court’s decision, and move the needle towards greater justice and equality" for Malaysian mother, it instead chose to perpetuate a "gross injustice" against women.

On Sept 9, High Court judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir ruled that the word "father" must be read to include "mother" and that children of Malaysian mothers born abroad are entitled to citizenship by operation of law.

The Court determined that provisions pertaining to citizenship rights–namely Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution (FC) together with the Second Schedule, Part II, Section 1(b) and 1(c) of the constitution must be read in harmony with Article 8(2), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

"In making his decision, High Court Judge Akhtar Tahir affirmed Malaysian mothers’ equal rights and opened the door for our children to no longer suffer unequal access to basic rights such as education and healthcare.

A filepic of NGO Family Frontiers president Suri Kempe (left) with plaintiffs in the case challenging a law preventing women in Malaysia passing their citizenship on to children born overseas, posing outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court. Photo: Family Frontiers/AFP A filepic of NGO Family Frontiers president Suri Kempe (left) with plaintiffs in the case challenging a law preventing women in Malaysia passing their citizenship on to children born overseas, posing outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court. Photo: Family Frontiers/AFP

"The judgement 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," Family Frontiers said in their statement.

They added that as voters, Malaysian women and mothers "will not hesitate to, in the next election, exercise their right to vote for representatives who are committed to form a government that affirms their right to equality, to be free of discrimination based on gender".

The Government’s decision to appeal the decision, they claim, sends a clear message that they are in favour of the continued discrimination and marginalisation of Malaysian mothers.

"We will not tolerate an administration that continues to defend archaic and sexist laws," the statement said.

The group has also called on Malaysians, to sign this petition calling on the Government to withdraw its appeal against women’s equal right to citizenship: https://bit.ly/tarikbalikrayuan.

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