Malaysian citizenship ruling on babies born abroad overturned

PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA (AFP) – Malaysia’s Court of Appeal on Friday (Aug 5) overturned a landmark ruling that had enabled mothers with foreign spouses to automatically pass on their nationality to children born overseas.

A Malaysian woman with a foreign spouse who gives birth abroad cannot automatically pass on her nationality.

Similar restrictions do not apply to Malaysian men, who enjoy a straight path to citizenship for their offspring.

A group of Malaysian mothers had challenged what it said were discriminatory citizenship rules, arguing they breached constitutional equality guarantees, and won before the High Court last September.

But the South-east Asian country’s government appealed the verdict, arguing the rules were in line with the constitution.

A three-judge panel, voting 2-1 on Friday, overturned the High Court’s ruling.

“The government’s appeal is allowed. The High Court decision is set aside,” said judge Kamaludin Mohamad Said.

He added that the High Court “cannot on its own whim and fancy rewrite constitution as it would lead to absurdity”.

The mothers who had filed the case and activists, many of them in tears, said they were disappointed with the decision.

Outside the court, Ms Lavinder Kaur, 43, cried aloud as she clutched her 19-year-old daughter’s hand.

“My daughter is without any Malaysian documents. She cannot enrol in a school,” she told reporters. “Why discriminate against the women?”

Mr Gurdial Singh, a lawyer for the mothers, told AFP they would file an appeal before the Federal Court – the country’s highest tribunal.

Mr Suri Kempe, the president of NGO Family Frontiers, which helped bring the case to court, described the latest ruling as a “setback” but said they would fight on.

Socially conservative Malaysia is among only a handful of countries worldwide with such rules, with campaigners long complaining they were discriminatory.

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