Predicament of mums with children born abroad

PETALING JAYA: When Rachel Ng told her seven-year old boy about a High Court ruling that allowed mothers to confer citizenship on children born overseas, he asked her if they would be able to stay together forever.

This surprised Ng, who did not realise that her child understood the issue of separation.

“I didn’t know that he actually understood the issue of him being different from his family. I was a bit surprised and taken aback. He actually understands,” she said.

The government, however, has now appealed the decision, which is a huge disappointment to Ng and many other Malaysian mothers in a similar situation.

Ng’s younger boy who is 11 months old is a Malaysian but his elder brother is British.

Ng, who is a single mother, is afraid that without a Malaysian citizenship, her eldest son might not be able to stay with her.

She applied for citizenship for her son in 2015 before he turned one but there had been no news about this application since.

As she had to move back to Malaysia in 2016, she had to get a British passport for her son so that he could travel.

“I hope the government drops the appeal. The government shouldn’t discriminate against mothers. The arguments of dual citizenship and threats to national security are ridiculous. What about fathers with foreign spouses?” she said.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court had on Sept 9 ruled that Malaysian mothers with a foreign spouse could automatically pass on their citizenship to their children born outside Malaysia but on Sept 13, the government appealed the ruling.

Gaithiri Siva, 42, is also disappointed with the government’s appeal, saying that she is worried about her four-year-old daughter who was born in the United States.

She has applied for Malaysian citizenship for her daughter, but the status is still pending.

Gaithiri, who moved back to Malaysia in 2018 from the United States with her husband and child, said the law was very archaic and patriarchal.

Myra Elyssa, 30, said the government had the chance to do the right thing by withdrawing the appeal.

Her eight-year-old daughter has Zambian citizenship while her three-year-old boy is Malaysian.

She gave birth in Zambia as she was not allowed to fly home because of her pregnancy.

She made an application for her daughter’s citizenship when she was five months old in April 2014 and received a rejection in October 2016. She reapplied again in February 2017, but has not heard anything until now.

Senior Umno lawmaker Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz also told the government to immediately withdraw the appeal, saying that it clearly discriminated against women.

“I hope the government is sincere to the women and to their children who did not commit any wrongdoings. A child is powerless to ask parents not to give birth to them overseas,” the Padang Rengas MP said while debating the Royal Address in Parliament yesterday.

In asking the government to withdraw its appeal, Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had recently also asked why there was discrimination against Malaysian mothers.

“It doesn’t feel right that Malaysian fathers and mothers are viewed differently in the eyes of the law concerning their child’s citizenship. Are Malaysian mothers less Malaysian than Malaysian fathers?” he said on Facebook last week.

A Malaysian man can confer his citizenship automatically even if the child is born abroad to a foreign spouse – he just has to register the birth and it takes about three days to sort out the formalities.

Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses could not automatically pass on citizenship to their children born outside Malaysia.

They had to apply for the child’s citizenship, and reapply if the application was unsuccessful.

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