PETALING JAYA: The Parliamentary Special Select Committee on women, children affairs and social development is keen to file a Private Member's Bill for a constitutional amendment allowing overseas-born children to be granted citizenship through their Malaysian mothers.
The committee's chairman Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who is Pengerang MP, however said without an independent, impartial, and well-supported Parliament, she is doubtful of the opportunity for the bill to be tabled in Parliament 'to see the light of day'.
"Members of Parliament, we reached a historical unanimous vote for a constitutional amendment to support the passing of the anti-party hopping law.
"If and when a bill is presented to us to make a minor amendment to the constitution to allow for both fathers and mothers to confer citizenship to their children, I trust that we can unanimously agree to do the same.
"Just as party hopping is unjust and unethical, so is leaving thousands of children stateless and in limbo," she said in a statement.
Azalina added that 1.86 million Malaysian women are living overseas, citing reasons for citizenship issues as one of the main factors deterring their return to Malaysia.
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"This figure represents 12% of the total female population of 15.6 million in Malaysia.
"This makes Malaysia the country with the second highest regional rate of women migrating with 57%, second only to Thailand, and above the global average of 48%," she said.
A Private Member’s Bill is a bill (proposed law) submitted by MPs who are not from the executive branch of the government.
She further explained that the issue of citizenship is not a mere issue of gender inequality.
"Sexist nationality laws lead to other human rights violations.
"Women and children have been reportedly trapped in abusive marriages when their or their children’s citizenship is dependent on their spouse.
"Such laws also make it difficult for a mother to claim child custody or gain access to her children if her marriage ends in separation or divorce.
"Underage girls are at greater risk of forced marriages as families may view this as a way to gain legal status.
"Such laws separate families and impose restrictions on freedom of movement, which has been repeatedly reported, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions," she said.
In September last year, the High Court ruled that Malaysian women have the same right as Malaysian men to confer automatic citizenship on their overseas-born children.
The decision was, however, overturned by the Court of Appeal on Aug 5.
In a majority ruling, the court held that the constitutional provision referred to the biological father and could not be extended to include the mother or parents.
It was up to Parliament, not the court, to rewrite the constitution, the judges said.