Gender equality: SWWS calls for “father” to be replaced with “parent” in Federal Constitution

Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) logo

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KUCHING, Aug 9: The Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) is imploring all political parties to swiftly support amending the Federal Constitution to ensure gender equality.

In a press release, SWWS said it is astonished and appalled by the recent majority decision of the Appeal Court, which denies Malaysian women married to foreigners the same rights as Malaysian men to automatically pass on their citizenship to their children born overseas.

“This overturning of last year’s High Court ruling which had agreed with the women has left those affected broken-hearted and others bemused,” SWWS said.

Along with other women’s organisations, SWWS called for the Federal Constitution to be quickly amended so that the word “father” is replaced by “parent”, removing the ‘archaic, paternalistic wording’ and leaving no room for ambiguity.

“This change is urgently needed as children’s lives, identity, schooling, and access to affordable health care is affected.

“The current system for mothers to apply (for their children’s citizenship) under Article 15 (2) is notoriously slow. Recently in answer to a Parliamentary question, it was revealed that since 2018 to mid-2022, 3,407 applications under this category had been submitted but only 26 were given an answer. Nineteen were successful and 7 rejected,” it stated.

SWWS pointed out that reasons for rejections are rarely given, so asking women to be patient and to use the existing channels is condemning children to a wait which could be longer than their lives.

“This is totally unacceptable. For the sake of the children and their mothers, this discriminatory action needs to be urgently halted.

“We call on all political parties to support amending the Constitution swiftly,” SWWS said.

SWWS pointed out that in 2001, Parliament amended Article 8 (2) of the Federal Constitution to state that there would be no gender discrimination in Malaysian laws.

“Yet when the Federal Constitution itself is tested at the Appeal Court, two out of the three judges, gave precedence to the use of the word “father”, rather than “parent”, in Section 1(b) and 1 (c) in the Second Schedule which, as part of Article 14, specifies how citizenship is conveyed in such circumstances,” it said.

SWWS stated that it agrees with the dissenting judge, Datuk S Nantha Balan, who stated that the decision was “illogical, pervasive, and degrading to Malaysian mothers’ rights and dignity”.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision negates the previous assurances that Malaysia protects women against discrimination within its Constitution.

“Such blatant gender inequality is against the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Malaysia has signed and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), No. 5 of which is to achieve gender equality.

“Malaysia’s non-compliance to these will be monitored with concern by the UN body,” it added.

On Aug 5, 2022, the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court ruling that the overseas-born children of Malaysian women married to foreigners can automatically be given Malaysian citizenship. — DayakDaily