Govt Appeals Ruling That Allows Mums To Pass Citizenship To Children Born Overseas

The Kuala Lumpur High Court's ruling was previously lauded by the de facto Law Minister, Communications and Multimedia Minister, and Women, Family, and Community Development Minister.

Cover image via Berita Harian & Free Malaysia Today

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Despite receiving praise from several Cabinet ministers, the government has decided to challenge the recent court ruling that allows Malaysian mothers to pass citizenship to children born overseas

Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun confirmed with Free Malaysia Today that a notice of appeal against the ruling made by the Kuala Lumpur High Court was filed yesterday, 13 September.

The Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) will be acting for the government — the defendant — in the legal action to reverse the High Court's decision.

Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun.

Image via Azinuddin Ghazali/Malay Mail

The government's decision comes less than a week after the landmark ruling on 9 September which heard Judge Akhtar Tahir saying the word 'father' in the Second Schedule of the Federal Constitution must mean and include mothers

The third highest court in Malaysia affirmed the right of Malaysian mothers to confer citizenship by operation of law on their children born abroad on an equal basis with Malaysian men.

Judge Akhtar emphasised that the Courts are empowered to interpret the law to uphold the spirit of the Federal Constitution and ensure justice, adding that the case does not seek to change policy but rather apply existing law in a way that will find a remedy for the grievance of the plaintiffs.

"The grievance of the plaintiffs are real... the discrimination is apparent," he said.

The case was filed by six Malaysian women and the family support group Family Frontiers in December 2020.

Members of Family Frontiers outside the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex on 27 April.

Image via Hari Anggara/Malay Mail

In response to the government's decision to appeal the ruling, Family Frontiers and Segambut lawmaker Hannah Yeoh called on the government to withdraw its notice of appeal

In a statement, Family Frontiers said the appeal should be withdrawn to ensure that injustice against Malaysian women was not perpetuated.

It said the government had the chance to "embrace the High Court's decision and move the needle towards greater justice and equality for its women citizens".

The family support group said Putrajaya rejecting the ruling had left them "appalled" and "deeply disappointed".

It added that the government's action sent "a clear message that they are in favour of the continued discrimination and marginalisation of Malaysian mothers".

Meanwhile, Yeoh pointed out in a Facebook post published today, 14 September, that the AG's action contradicts the public statement of Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun, who said the ruling was a "new ray of hope for Malaysian women".

"As the Attorney General's action clearly contradicted that public statement by the Women Minister, one cannot help but wonder if this is a double-minded Government or is it just another case of the Women Minister's (sic) being clueless about her responsibility to champion equality for women?" said Yeoh, who is the former deputy women, family, and community development minister.

Segambut lawmaker Hannah Yeoh.

Image via Shafina Jemenon/Berita Harian

Rina had on 11 September said the High Court's ruling reflected the government's commitment to creating equality for women.

Other than Rina, de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa are two other ministers who publicly supported the decision, reported Malay Mail.

Confused by the "multi-headed" government, Yeoh said the issue has put Prime Minister Datuk Sri Ismail Sabri's 'Keluarga Malaysia' to the test.

"This episode alone has shown so many inconsistencies within his Cabinet, but the most glaring weakness is the failure of this government to protect women and children," said the DAP member of Parliament.

Additionally, Family Frontiers launched a petition urging the government to withdraw its notice of appeal

In less than a day, the petition has been signed by more than 5,400 people.

Last week, Judge Akhtar said that Malaysian mothers have the right to pass citizenship to their children because Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender:

Earlier, former law minister Azalina Othman had said that it is unfair that citizenship is only for the Malaysian husbands, not the wives: