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Equal citizenship rights of Malaysian mothers denied by Malaysian Government in court

On May 17th, the Malaysian Government had appealed against the High Court ruling to allow the case for equal citizenship rights of Malaysian women to proceed. In a press statement by Family Frontiers Malaysia, the Malaysian Government "filed an appeal contesting the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision on May 6th 2021 that permitted the constitutional challenge filed by Family Frontiers and six Malaysian mothers to provide Malaysian women with equal citizenship rights to proceed".

Family Frontiers Malaysia, also known as Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG), was formed in 2009 by two mothers who felt stigmatized as foreigners and insurmountable struggles in raising Malaysian children. Their objective is to advocate for equal citizenship rights for foreign spouses and Malaysian citizens who face discrimination in citizenship rights.

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The Federal Constitution disfavours Malaysian women in obtaining citizenship rights since the foundation of Malaysia. For context, women in Malaysia face a constitutional challenge when it comes to citizenship. What is a constitutional challenge? Simply put, the archaic citizenship laws, particularly Article 14(1)(b) and 14(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution, does not grant Malaysian women to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children by "operation of law", which Malaysian men can. Malaysian women with foreign husbands cannot automatically confer nationality to their children as a result. These laws contradict another law enshrined in the Federal Constitution: Article 8, which guarantees fundamental liberties and prohibits discrimination based on gender.

Despite 64 years of independence, outdated laws and archaic systems remain enshrined, rooted in the Federal Constitution. The nationality laws are but one of the many sections that remain untouched since 1957. As a result, women are unable to grant jus soli (birthright citizenship) to their children. "The Government has chosen to turn a blind eye to the lived realities of affected mothers & children." said the president of Family Frontiers in regards to the Government's appeal against the High Court decision allowing the case for equal citizenship of Malaysian mothers to proceed.

The prerequisites for obtaining citizenship in Malaysia is as followed:

  1. Every person born within Malaysia of whose parents one at least is at the time of the birth either a citizen or permanently resident in Malaysia and

  2. Every person born outside Malaysia whose father is at the time of the birth a citizen and either was born in Malaysia or is at the time of the birth in the service of the Federation or of a State and

  3. Every person born outside Malaysia whose father is at the time of the birth a citizen and whose birth is, within 1 year of its occurrence or within such longer period as the Malaysian Government may in any particular case allow, registered at a consulate of Malaysia or, if it occurs in Brunei or in a territory prescribed for this purpose by order of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, registered with the Malaysian Government and

  4. Every person born in Singapore of whose parents one at least is at the time of the birth a citizen and who is not born citizen otherwise than by virtue of this paragraph and

  5. Every person born within Malaysia who is not born a citizen of any country otherwise than by virtue of this paragraph.


Ultimately, unequal citizenship laws does not solely affect families but also affects the State. When a portion of Malaysia's population is excluded from fully contributing and participating in society, global and economic development is stifled, and sustainable growth is stunted. Naturally, mothers would want their children to experience Malaysia as a citizen fully. To grow up with their mothers in the same multi-ethnic environment as they did and share memories of bonding without worrying about the thought of displacement. Unfortunately, those hopes and dreams of loving mothers are brutally crushed, left to fester like a sore and dry up like a raisin in the sun. These children, stuck in limbo, are left with only a state of displacement and a motherless childhood.

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