Halt and review regressive citizenship law amendments

Stateless children in Malaysia - EPA/AL JAZEERA

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Aliran welcomes the government’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to rectify a decades-long gender bias and give Malaysian mothers the equal right to the automatic conferment of citizenship to their children born overseas.

We are also relieved that two of the other five proposed but regressive citizenship amendments, affecting Malaysia-born stateless children have been dropped.

However, Aliran remains deeply concerned over the remaining three regressive constitutional amendments which will affect children of permanent residents, citizenship applicants between 18 and 21 years of age, and foreign wives.

It is argued that the removal of the right to automatic citizenship for children of permanent residents will affect abandoned babies and children without citizenship, including the children of Orang Asli, Orang Asal and red identity card holders who have no other home but Malaysia.

We are also concerned about the proposal to reduce the age limit for application for citizenship from 21 to 18, when it is well known that the procedural and administrative challenges which cause delay and hardship in people’s lives should be resolved first.

We are also concerned that the amendments will lock foreign women in abusive marriages for up to two years from the date of citizenship (unlike before when it was two years from the date of marriage) for fear that they will be rendered stateless if the marriage is dissolved.

It remains unclear why these ill-conceived proposed amendments were put forward in the first place. The national human rights commission Suhakam, the Malaysian Bar and a slew of civil society groups, including the Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance, and individuals have highlighted the extreme regressiveness of these amendments as the Ministry of Home Affairs’ intentions became clear.

READ MORE:  Citizenship laws: Government’s proposed 'reforms' regressive

Why would the Madani government embark on a path of regressive amendments, especially since the government’s “Madani” motto aims to uphold noble values like compassion and civility? What is the real reason behind this agenda?

The government has a duty to ensure that proposed amendments to the Constitution need to be well thought out. Importantly, it must ensure that these amendments will not cause further hardship to vulnerable groups, especially children.

Aliran calls on the government to table only the progressive citizenship amendments that will allow overseas-born children of Malaysian women with foreign spouses to be entitled to citizenship, while holding back and reviewing the other regressive amendments.

We urge the government to carry out a careful, in-depth and evidence-based study with all stakeholders over the regressive parts of the amendments.

Halt and review these regressive amendments.

Aliran executive committee
25 March 2024

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.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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