09/15/2021, 18.30
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No citizenship for the children of Malaysian women and foreign fathers

by Steve Suwannarat

Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and his government plan to appeal last week’s High Court ruling overturning a discriminatory law that grants citizenship to children of mixed couples only if the father is Malaysian. For civil society groups, the government’s appeal is a “betrayal of rights”.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysia’s new government under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has refused to accept a ruling by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur last week, granting children of Malaysian women and foreign fathers automatic recognition as citizens.

The government has filed papers to appeal against the High Court asking for a review of the ruling, noting that it would be discriminatory since Malaysian men married to foreign women have the right to decide the citizenship of their children.

In view of the government’s decision, civil society groups immediately launched protest actions.

Family Frontiers, an organisation committed to family-related human rights, launched a petition against what it has called a “betrayal of rights”.

At least 5,000 people signed the petition in 24 hours asking the government to drop its appeal against the court decision.

Hannah Yeoh, an opposition MP and a former Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, slammed the government as “nonsensical and cruel” for its willingness to perpetuate "this gross injustice”.

Several factors have influenced the government's decision, carried out by the State Attorney's Office.

The dispute is affected by government policies that have traditionally favoured Malaysia’s Malay majority, just over half of the population, to which the various ruling parties have guaranteed status and benefits out of political opportunism and shared (Islamic) religion.

An alleged "common feeling" has led to arbitrary situations at the expense of ethnic and religious minorities (Christians are less than 12 per cent of the population).

This is also affected by the persistent tensions between civil law and Islamic religious law (Sharia), especially in the context of family law, which is often used by courts in disputes among Muslims and, at times, also imposed on non-Muslims.

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