Impact on women in Malaysian binational marriages

Proposer:

Melinda Anne Sharlini

Affiliations:

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

Policy Code:

2c Women

Problem Statement / Issue:

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 and Call to Action:

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.

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