NGOs question AGC's 'impermissible' amendment argument in M'sian mothers citizenship case

PETALING JAYA: NGOs have questioned the Attorney General's Chambers' (AGC) arguments on its appeal to overturn a lower court ruling that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers married to foreigners are entitled to automatic Malaysian citizenship.

Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) committee member Meera Samanther said that the argument saying that the amendment of Article 8 (2) of the Constitution was impermissible was “going against the essence of equality”.

“It was the Cabinet that approved the amendment in 2001 and Parliament endorsed it.

“21 years later to use the argument that it should not have taken place goes against the very essence of equality,” she said, in a joint statement with AWL treasurer Jasmine Wong.

They added that there was no basis for discrimination against Malaysian mothers while their husbands could automatically confer citizenship to their children born overseas.

“Our Constitution’s basic structure includes the right to citizenship based on two principles, jus sanguinis (lineage) and jus soli (place of birth).

“There is no basis for discriminating against Malaysian mothers when their male counterparts can confer Malaysian citizenship to their children born overseas automatically,” they said.

All Women’s Action Society (Awam) information and communication officer Jernell Tan Chia Ee concurred by saying that the argument could nullify decades of efforts to improve laws on gender discrimination against women.

She added it would also impact the basis of Malaysia’s 1995 accession to key international women’s rights treaties and resolutions namely the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and the Beijing Declaration.

“Women and their fundamental rights are not some trendy order of the day that the government can trample on and cast aside whenever it suits them.

“By saying that the 2001 constitutional amendment to Article 8(2) to include gender is invalid, and that the article is a 'basic feature' that under any circumstances cannot be amended even by Parliament, you are essentially not recognising gender discrimination,” she added.

Article 8(2) provides that there shall be no discrimination against Malaysians based on religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law.

In September 2001, the Malaysian Government through the Parliament had introduced "gender” to the list in Article 8(2) to also prevent gender discrimination in Malaysian laws.

On Wednesday (June 24), Lawyer Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar, who was representing Family Frontiers, said the government had raised a "startling point" when it argued that anti-gender discriminatory amendments were "impermissible".

"So, we hope to demolish this contention," he added.

The Court of Appeal is currently hearing the appeals of two cases, among them, involving the Family Frontiers and six Malaysian women who are married to foreigners.

The verdict of the government’s appeal to overturn the ruling, which was slated to be heard on Wednesday, has been deferred to Aug 5.

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