PETALING JAYA: A law that stops Malaysian mothers from conferring their nationality on their children is archaic and discriminatory because every child, whose either parent is Malaysian, should be granted citizenship, says Hannah Yeoh.
The Segambut MP, who was former deputy Women, Family and Community Development minister, said that the existing policy reduces the option for Malaysian women who are seeking divorces, protection or relief because it assumes the presence of the father figure in a happy family setting.
"The reality is not like that for many Malaysian women.
"Those who have to leave their union are often stuck between a rock and a hard place because their children do not have citizenship in their homeland," she said in a statement Friday (Dec 4).
Yeoh said she and former Women, Family and Community Development minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had written to the Home Minister when they were both in office for the law to be reformed.
However, there was no positive feedback from Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who had served as Home Minister during Pakatan Harapan's 22-month administration.
"This conservative policy hurts the children of Malaysian women. They should rightfully be Malaysians," she said.
Yeoh said Malaysian women ought to be treated the same as their male counterparts as they equally contributed to the country's economic and social development.
She said citizenship should be granted to every child whose either parent or adopted parent is Malaysian, regardless of the marital status of the parent and the gender of the Malaysian parent or the place of birth of the child, including foundling children who have been abandoned by their biological parents.
Yeoh added that the Home Ministry must expedite reform in this area, especially in the Covid-19 pandemic era because Malaysian mothers abroad cannot return to Malaysia to give birth due to borders being closed.
"Many seeming options for travel as to the place of giving birth were no options to begin with due to the shutting of our borders.
"What is of a greater threat to national security is corruption within their enforcement system as seen in the recent arrest of immigration and police officers. Innocent children cannot and will not be a danger to our nation," said Yeoh.
Yeoh was responding to Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Mohamed Said who cited national security as the reason to prevent Malaysian women married to foreign spouses from conferring nationality on a child born abroad.
He explained this was done to avoid the issue of dual-citizenship as children born overseas would follow their father's nationality.
"Therefore, we must be diligent to prevent the child from being granted dual-citizenship.
"If the child has yet to be granted citizenship from the father, an application (for Malaysian citizenship) can be made under Article 15(2) of the Federal Constitution.
"This is a matter of national security and sovereignty that we must ensure," he said on Wednesday (Dec 3).
Ismail, who is Kuala Krau MP, was responding to a question posed by Sekijang MP Natrah Ismail.
The Federal Constitution only guarantees citizenship to children born overseas to Malaysian fathers but is silent on children born overseas to Malaysian mothers.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Bar Council expressed its concerns over Ismail's comment saying efforts should be increased to pass a constitutional amendment to include the right of Malaysian mothers that would allow them to confer nationality on their children if they are born abroad.
"In a democracy that is built on the rule of law, equal rights should be provided to both men and women in order to ensure that justice is preserved," said its president Salim Bashir.
He said there were many situations where Malaysian mothers with children born to foreign spouses, who wished to return to Malaysia upon divorce or to seek employment.
However, these women often faced difficulties in securing citizenship for their children as a result of existing laws and policies.
Salim added the rule of law and principles of gender equality necessitate an amendment to the Federal Constitution and other relevant laws in safeguarding the rights of mothers to be able to confer citizenship on their children born abroad to foreign spouses.