UN experts denounce M’sia’s gender-discriminatory citizenship law
SHAH ALAM – The United Nations (UN) express their utmost disappointment in Malaysia’s Court of Appeal’s decision that denies Malaysian women the same rights as men which is to automatically confer citizenship to their children who were born in a different country to foreign spouses.
The group’s experts, in a joint statement said the decision contravened Malaysia’s obligation under international law and the need to interpret all constitutional provisions related to citizenship and its transference without gender discrimination.
“Discriminatory nationality and citizenship laws embody patriarchal values that undermine women’s basic human rights and expose them and their children to harm and further discrimination.
“Denying Malaysian mothers the ability to pass on citizenship to their children has far-reaching negative impacts on children’s rights to education, health care and freedom of movement as well as their social lives and identities.
“When children of Malaysian descent are banned from being part of society based on a discriminatory interpretation of the law, it does not only negatively impact them, but the community and State lose the opportunity to thrive socially, politically and economically,” the experts said in a statement.
The experts also added that statelessness and denial of equal access to citizenship raised the risk of exploitation, such as human trafficking, child trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.
“We regret that the Malaysian government is responsible for this setback instead of seizing an opportunity to make progress towards the realisation of gender equality.
“We call on the government to fulfill its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by interpreting the law to ensure there is no contradiction between Article 14(1)b and Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, as amended by Parliament to prohibit discrimination against citizens based on descent, place of birth or gender in any law,” the statement read.
The experts also urged the Malaysian government to ensure that Malaysian women could enjoy equal rights to nationality and citizenship.
On August 5, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the government’s appeal, declaring that the relevant provisions of the Constitution specifically refer to the “biological father” and cannot be extended to mean the “mother.”
The UN experts in the statement comprised of Working Group on discrimination against women and girls chairman Melissa Upreti, vice chairman Dorothy Estrada Tanck, Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić and Meskerem Geset Techane.
Other than that, the joint-release also include special rapporteur on trafficking in persons Siobhan Mullaly, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery Tomoya Obokata and special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Gonzalez Morales.