Impact on women in Malaysian binational marriages

By:

Melinda Anne Sharlini

Affiliations:

Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor and KL (Family Frontiers)

Policy Code:

2c Women

Problem Statement:

Women in Malaysian binational marriages—foreign wives of Malaysian men and Malaysian women married to foreign spouses—are disproportionately impacted by Immigration policies and practices, and citizenship laws.

Malaysian women do not have equal rights to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children by ‘operation of law’. They will have to “apply” for citizenship through a process fraught with delays, repeated rejections without reasons and no guarantee of approval.

Foreign spouses of Malaysian men also face compromised autonomy in the private and public spheres, and economically due to the lack of right to work, lack of access to Permanent Residence and heightened uncertainty of legal status in case of divorce or demise of the Malaysian spouse. There is an increased risk of domestic violence while they are made to be wholly dependent on the Malaysian spouse for their legal and economic status in the country.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

Women in Malaysian binational marriages should have equal rights like in other marriages and Malaysian Men

Proposal of Solution:

1) Allow divorced and widowed foreign spouses of Malaysians (upon provision of supporting documents) to reside and work permanently and independently of the Malaysian spouse, taking into account the best interest of the children and the family unit.

2) Allow foreign spouses of Malaysians equal rights to work.
2.1) Remove the statement of prohibition from employment on the visa and the requirement to obtain permission to work from the Department of Immigration.
2.2) Make employers’ contribution to EPF mandatory for foreign spouses of Malaysians.
2.3) Allow full benefits under SOCSO for foreign spouses. This is to include education, vocational, dialysis treatment and return to work programmes.

3) Allow foreign spouses of Malaysians equal rights to the following economic and social services for the best interest of their Malaysian families:
3.1) To open individual bank accounts.
3.2) To purchase affordable housing in Malaysia without being subjected to foreign investment directives.
3.3) To contribute to Tabung Haji.
3.4) To have local rates at tourist facilities and attractions.
3.5) To enjoy senior citizen discounts.

Additional Information:

Foreigners married to Malaysians are wholly dependent on their Malaysian spouse to maintain their legal status within the country. Without access to permanent residence or citizenship, most foreign spouses are reliant on the Long-Term Social Visit Pass, which has varied lengths of validity, some as short as three months. However, foreign husbands without children are given shorter term visas and others normally would get visas for a duration of one to two years. The Malaysian spouse must accompany the foreign spouse for each and every visit to the Immigration Department for the renewal of visas. Rarely are spouses granted a Residence Pass, which is similarly dependent on the Malaysian spouse. This process can last for decades until the foreign spouse is granted a Permanent Residence (PR) after decades and PR is a pathway to citizenship status—leaving the immigration status of the foreign spouse vulnerable to the mercy of the Malaysian spouse. This imbalanced power dynamic exposes the foreign spouse to precarious circumstances such as an increased risk of domestic violence. In terms of divorce, foreign spouses have little or no rights. Spouses without children are forced to leave the country, while those with children but without a PR or citizenship are left to apply for a six month pass (Social Visit Pass)—the pass is to be sponsored by a Malaysian who has an income of at least RM2,000 perpetuating the systemic precarity. The foreign spouse is not allowed to work during this period, and is again left at the benevolence of others. Those seeking remedy for domestic violence are allowed to remain in the country for a short-term, while those seeking custody of their children are often met with disappointment and are eventually forced to leave the country.

Translation

Isu dan Polisi Semasa:

Nilai-nilai dan Kepercayaan:

Penyelesaian:

Informasi Tambahan:

Foreigners married to Malaysians are wholly dependent on their Malaysian spouse to maintain their legal status within the country. Without access to permanent residence or citizenship, most foreign spouses are reliant on the Long-Term Social Visit Pass, which has varied lengths of validity, some as short as three months. However, foreign husbands without children are given shorter term visas and others normally would get visas for a duration of one to two years. The Malaysian spouse must accompany the foreign spouse for each and every visit to the Immigration Department for the renewal of visas. Rarely are spouses granted a Residence Pass, which is similarly dependent on the Malaysian spouse. This process can last for decades until the foreign spouse is granted a Permanent Residence (PR) after decades and PR is a pathway to citizenship status—leaving the immigration status of the foreign spouse vulnerable to the mercy of the Malaysian spouse. This imbalanced power dynamic exposes the foreign spouse to precarious circumstances such as an increased risk of domestic violence. In terms of divorce, foreign spouses have little or no rights. Spouses without children are forced to leave the country, while those with children but without a PR or citizenship are left to apply for a six month pass (Social Visit Pass)—the pass is to be sponsored by a Malaysian who has an income of at least RM2,000 perpetuating the systemic precarity. The foreign spouse is not allowed to work during this period, and is again left at the benevolence of others. Those seeking remedy for domestic violence are allowed to remain in the country for a short-term, while those seeking custody of their children are often met with disappointment and are eventually forced to leave the country.