Deputy minister: Malaysia upholding reservation on Cedaw clause that would let Malaysian women pass on citizenship

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Hajah Natrah suggested there appeared to be discrimination against Malaysian women as they are not be able to pass on their citizenship to any children they have with a foreign spouse. — AFP pic
Hajah Natrah suggested there appeared to be discrimination against Malaysian women as they are not be able to pass on their citizenship to any children they have with a foreign spouse. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The government will maintain its reservations to Article 9(2) on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Mohamed Said.

The specific article obliges signatory states to uphold equality between women and men with respect to the nationality of their children.

“The government has agreed to retain its reservation on Cedaw Article 9(2).

“This decision was made parallel to the provisions under the Federal Constitution and existing government policies which are related to citizenship,” he told the Dewan Rakyat during question time.

Ismail was responding to PKR’s Sekijang MP Hajah Natrah Ismail who asked the Home Ministry if the government intends to implement the Cedaw Committee’s recommendation to ensure that women have the same rights as men with regards to citizenship, especially in conferring nationality to their children born abroad to foreign spouses.

According to Hajah Natrah, there appeared to be discrimination against Malaysian women as they would not be able to pass on their citizenships to any children they have with a foreign spouse.

The children of Malaysian men automatically gain citizenship regardless of their mothers’ nationalities.

She noted that for Malaysian women married to foreigners, the citizenship of their children must be sought by application that was also not certain to be approved.

“At times it could take years. So why is there still discrimination against women in Malaysia?” she asked the deputy minister in a supplementary question.

Citing national security concerns as a reason, Ismail asserted that this was to prevent dual citizenships as a child born to a foreign father would also have claim to the father’s nationality.

In September 2019, Hannah Yeoh, who was then women, family and community development deputy minister, said the government had been working to speed up the process of amending the Federal Constitution to enable Malaysian mothers married to foreign spouses get equal rights to confer citizenship to their children born abroad.

According to a Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG) previously, the Federal Constitution expressly provides citizenship to children born overseas in wedlock to Malaysian fathers, but is silent on children born overseas to Malaysian mothers.

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