Unequal citizenship rights of Malaysian women in the conferral of citizenship
Melinda Anne Sharlini
Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor and KL (Family Frontiers)
Problem Statement / Issue:
Malaysian women in binational marriages do not have equal rights to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children by operation of law as Malaysian men in binational marriages. Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution allows a person born outside of Malaysia to be a citizen by ‘operation of law’ provided that their father is a citizen at the time, limiting Malaysian mothers to Article 15(2) and its related Second Schedule, where citizenship is upon application. The application process via Article 15(2) is fraught with delays—ranging between two and ten years merely to receive a response, repeated rejections without reasons and no guarantee of approval
Women in this regard face a myriad of challenges, including inconsistent bureaucratic challenges during the citizenship application process, vulnerability to gender-based violence and compromised autonomy in the public, private and civic sphere. Non-citizen children of these women face unequal access to fundamental rights while living in Malaysia.
Value(s) and Belief(s):
Proposal of Solution and Call to Action:
1) Amend Article 14(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution (in accordance with Article 8(2) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender) to ensure Malaysian women can confer citizenship by operation of law on an equal basis as Malaysian men on their children born overseas.
2) Develop a clear standard operating procedure that is made available on the Department of Immigration and National Registration Department’s website to enhance reliability and transparency in the processing of citizenship and visa applications for non-citizen children of Malaysians. This is to include a reasonable timeframe until a decision can be expected and detailed procedures to appeal a decision.
3) Allocate resources necessary to process the backlog of citizenship applications within a reasonable amount of time.
4) Allow the submission of citizenship applications at Malaysian Missions Overseas, including for those applying for their children over the age of one year old.
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