Discriminatory law and practice against women in Malaysian binational marriages

Proposer:

Bina Ramanand

Affiliations:

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

Policy Code:

2c Women

Problem Statement / Issue:

Women in binational marriages are faced with uncertainty and vulnerability due to citizenship laws and immigration policies.

1. Malaysian women are faced with unequal rights to confer citizenship to their non-citizen children and non-citizen spouses. Article 14(1)(b) read with Section 1(b) of Part II of the Second Schedule only allows Malaysian fathers to confer citizenship on their children born overseas by operation of law. This limits Malaysian women married to non-citizens to citizenship by registration—Article 15(2), a discretionary process fraught with delays, rejections and no guarantee of approval. Malaysian women are also unable to confer citizenship by registration on their non-citizen spouses on an equal basis as men under Article 15(1).
2. Non-citizen wives of Malaysians are also placed in vulnerable situations when they are made to wholly depend on their Malaysian spouse for their legal and economic status. They face difficulties in remaining in the country and/or accessing justice in cases of separation, divorce and widowhood.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

In line with CEDAW Article 9(2) and other relevant Articles, and the recommendations received by Malaysia in its 2018 review and resulting concluding observations, laws and policies should be gender-sensitive and equal such that there are safeguards for women in Malaysian binational marriages, including:
1. Malaysian women to be granted equal rights as Malaysian men to confer citizenship on their children and spouse.
2. Immigration policies to be reviewed and reformed to ensure women in binational marriages are not placed in legal and economic dependence.

Proposal of Solution and Call to Action:

Review citizenship laws, and immigration policies and practices, specifically:
1. Amend Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution (in accordance with Article 8(2)) to ensure Malaysian mothers can confer their citizenship by operation of law on an equal basis as Malaysian fathers on their children born overseas.
2. Amend Article 15(1) of the Federal Constitution (in accordance with Article 8(2)) to ensure that non-citizen spouses of Malaysian women are entitled to citizenship by registration similar to non-citizen spouses of Malaysian men.
3. Withdraw reservations to Article 9(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
4. Remove the statement of prohibition of employment on the Long-Term Social Visit Pass and the requirement to request prior approval to work.
5. Allow non-citizen spouses to renew their visa without the presence of their spouse.
6. Allow separated, divorced and widowed spouses to access permanent residence when they have Malaysian children, and allow them to renew their legal status without the presence of the Malaysian spouse.

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