Global Bersih raises concerns over inclusion of regressive citizenship law amendments

Stateless children in Malaysia - EPA/AL JAZEERA

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Global Bersih welcomes the recent announcement by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim regarding the government’s commitment to table the amendment to Article 14 of the Federal Constitution.

This amendment aims to ensure that children born abroad to Malaysians mothers are granted citizenship rights, marking a significant step towards achieving gender equality and equal citizenship rights in Malaysia.

The proposed amendment to Part 1, Section 1(1)(d) and 1(1)(e) and Part II, Section 1(b) and 1(c) of the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution is a commendable move that reflects the government’s recognition of the importance of upholding the rights of Malaysian citizens, regardless of gender or geographical location.

However, Global Bersih is deeply concerned about the government’s decision to bundle this crucial amendment with other regressive amendments that appear to undermine the rights of some of the most vulnerable groups in our society.

These changes threaten to strip away existing protections in the Federal Constitution, putting vulnerable children at risk of statelessness. This approach undermines the positive strides towards equality and inclusivity.

The following proposed changes pose significant risks to various vulnerable groups, including:

  • Foundlings and abandoned children – Changing the process from automatically granting citizenship to requiring a registration process could significantly impede their ability to obtain Malaysian citizenship
  • Children of Malaysian permanent residents – Removing the automatic right to citizenship for children born in Malaysia to permanent residents risks increasing statelessness, particularly among marginalised communities
  • Vulnerable children (children born out of wedlock, adopted or abandoned stateless children) – Removing their automatic route to citizenship could lead to increased statelessness
  • Foreign spouses – Revoking citizenship from foreign spouses of Malaysian men if the marriage ends within two years of receiving citizenship could discourage them from leaving abusive situations
  • Age limit for stateless children – Reducing the age limit for stateless children to apply for citizenship from 21 to 18 could leave more children stateless by shortening the timeframe they have to secure citizenship
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Global Bersih stands firm in the demand for the government to decouple these amendments. We urge the government to proceed with the amendment that grants Malaysian mothers an equal right to confer citizenship to their children and to reconsider and ultimately drop the regressive amendments.

Family Frontiers and other civil society organisations have repeatedly urged the government to separate the progressive amendment to grant equal right to Malaysian women to confer citizenship to their children from the regressive amendments.

Furthermore, clarity is needed on whether the amendments will apply retroactively to children born overseas to Malaysian mothers prior to the passage of these amendments. It is crucial that these amendments are retroactive to include children who remain affected by their inability to obtain Malaysian citizenship.

Global Bersih urges the Malaysian government to consider the far-reaching implications of these amendments on the rights and lives of Malaysian citizens and their families.

We call on the government to uphold its commitment to human rights, equality and the protection of the vulnerable by re-evaluating the proposed regressive amendments and focusing on progressive reforms that strengthen the fabric of our diverse and inclusive society. – Global Bersih

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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