PETALING JAYA: The Cabinet’s decision to approve the draft constitutional amendments to grant automatic citizenship to children born overseas to Malaysian mothers married to foreigners is the way forward and will bring huge relief to impacted families, say lawmakers and NGOs.
Describing the Cabinet’s decision as proof that the unity government is concerned with upholding the principle of gender equality, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the proposed amendments should be expedited and supported by all government and opposition MPs when tabled in the Dewan Rakyat, according to Bernama.
“We hope it will solve the problem of children with no citizenship. Many people in Sarawak are affected by the problem. This will give them justice,” she told a media conference after attending an entrepreneurship programme for women organised by the National Welfare Foundation in Kuching yesterday.
Nancy said she has been approached by many women seeking help over their children’s citizenship issues.
The Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) welcomed the Cabinet’s move, saying that it was a significant advancement in acknowledging the rights of Malaysian women.
“It is heartening to see that the government is committed to taking this important step to address this long-standing issue.
“We now look forward to the consent of the Conference of Rulers and the smooth passage of the amendment in Parliament.
“We urge all relevant stakeholders to work together to ensure that the amendment is implemented in a timely and effective manner,” said Family Frontiers in a statement yesterday.
It also stated that the women and children encountered significant challenges and unfair treatment in the country due to their status.
“With this amendment, the various obstacles that the mothers and children face, including family separation, obstacles to accessing long-term resident status, education, healthcare, and social services, will soon come to a relieving end,” the statement added.
Voice of the Children chairperson Sharmila Sekaran said she was delighted with the news, adding that it shows the government is listening to the people.
“So many, in particular Family Frontiers, have been raising awareness on this issue for many years, culminating in some mothers filing legal action to have their rights and those of their children heard.
“It is always good to be heard by the government and for children to be afforded protection. But there are many categories of stateless children, which this and previous governments are aware of,” she said, citing children born in the country whose parents are unknown and who are not given automatic citizenship upon their adoption in Malaysia by Malaysian parents.
She said the government is aware of and has been addressing the plight of stateless children, who should also be considered in the upcoming amendments to the Constitution.
“The government is obligated under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that all children are protected from discrimination and have the right to acquire nationality.
“We acknowledge that there are other categories of children who are stateless, and these are a little more complex to address and resolve,” she said.
Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin also welcomed the announcement, saying that it was a significant leap in gender equality and that a major constitutional injustice was being corrected.
“Historic for boys and girls denied citizenship.
“I will vote for constitutional amendments. Boys and girls can soon be proud Malaysians!” the MP noted.
Bukit Melawati assemblyman Juwairiya Zulkifli also lauded the Cabinet’s decision, saying that the affected children with citizenship issues must be given direct assistance.
“It shows that the government is committed to bringing about law reforms,” she said.
Former Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, who has been very vocal about this issue, said the move to amend the Constitution was the first step to breaking the hegemony of double standards, discrimination, sexism and patriarchy “within the walls of Putrajaya”.
“(It is also) the first step for children born overseas to Malaysian mothers to be called Malaysian,” she said.