Malaysia: A 1995-1996 incident in a town near Kuala Lumpur (Johore Bharu district) in which a Malay Muslim woman and a Bangladeshi Muslim man were prevented from marrying by the woman's side; a subsequent announcement by Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Dato Megat Junid that foreigners cannot marry Malaysian women, that those who do will not be granted permanent residence status, and that a Malaysian woman who marries a foreigner outside Malaysia will not be allowed to return; current law or policy of Malaysia regarding marriages between Malaysian women and foreigners
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||2 December 1999|
|Citation / Document Symbol||MYS33241.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Malaysia: A 1995-1996 incident in a town near Kuala Lumpur (Johore Bharu district) in which a Malay Muslim woman and a Bangladeshi Muslim man were prevented from marrying by the woman's side; a subsequent announcement by Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Dato Megat Junid that foreigners cannot marry Malaysian women, that those who do will not be granted permanent residence status, and that a Malaysian woman who marries a foreigner outside Malaysia will not be allowed to return; current law or policy of Malaysia regarding marriages between Malaysian women and foreigners, 2 December 1999, MYS33241.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad6d44.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
No reports of a 1995-1996 incident in a town near Kuala Lumpur (Johore Bharu district) in which a Malay Muslim woman and a Bangladeshi Muslim man were prevented from marrying by the woman's side could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
However, on 4 October 1996 the Singapore-based Straits Times, citing a report in the 1 October 1996 issue of the Utusan Malaysia newspaper, reported that a number of fights had taken place "after local residents took offence at the behaviour of foreign workers toward women. The most serious case to date, involving a Bangladeshi and a local woman, occurred last month in the town of Majidee in Johor, which has the largest number of Bangladeshi workers nationwide25,000 in all." Police reportedly fired warning shots to break up the fight, which involved 100 Bangladeshis and 50 Malaysian residents, and resulted in eight injuries (ibid.).
Shortly after the September 1996 incident Deputy Home Minister Megat Junid disclosed that Malaysia's immigration department was gathering statistics to determine the extent of foreign workers' involvement with Malaysian women (The Straits Times 4 Oct. 1996). Junid's statement followed an announcement from the same department that it was investigating reports that 10,000 Bangladeshi workers had married local women in the previous five years, and a government announcement that permits for non-professional foreign workers married to Malaysian women would be revoked (ibid.). The Straits Times noted a "growing public concern" about the influx of Bangladeshi workers and their tendency to get involved with Malaysian women, and cited a 1 October 1996 report in Utusan Malaysia indicating that "incidences of khalwat (close proximity) and sex outside marriage between Bangladeshi workers and Malaysian women have been on the rise" (ibid.). Allegedly some unmarried local women had become pregnant because of their relationships with foreign workers, and some foreign workers, including Bangladeshis, had simply abandoned Malaysian women when their work permits expired or they left Malaysia to work in other countries (ibid.; AFP 6 Oct. 1996). Both Deputy Home Minister Junid and Premier Mahathir Mohamad publicly expressed their opinions on the "serious social problems" and "social illnesses" created by foreign workers in Malaysia (ibid.; The Straits Times 4 Oct. 1996).
With regard to current Malaysian law or policy on marriages between Malaysian women and foreigners, the following information was provided by the Third Secretary (Admin/Consular) at the High Commission for Malaysia in Ottawa:
The Registration of Marriages Ordinance, 1952 [states that] all Muslims who have contracted their marriage abroad under Islamic Law may register at the National Registration Department in Malaysia in order to obtain the Certificate of Registration of Marriage under the above ordinance. Registration is optional.
[A]ll non-Muslims residing outside Malaysia may marry under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, 1976, and within six months must register their marriage at the nearest Malaysian Embassy or High Commission, or under the marriage laws of the resident country (25 Nov. 1999).
A 6 September 1999 report in the New Straits Times on archaic Malaysian laws described the Malaysian citizenship law as follows:
When a Malaysian female marries a foreign male, he doesn't get Malaysian citizenship, but a foreign woman who marries a Malaysian male does. A child of the former situation can only be a Malaysian citizen if he/she is born in Malaysia. For the latter, it doesn't matter where he/she is born.
Other media sources provide additional information on citizenship issues and government policy regarding marriages between Malaysians and non-Malaysians.
On 29 January 1999 Deputy Home Minister Datuk Kadir Sheikh Fadzir stated that "the government has always advocated a policy to discourage marriage with foreigners" (New Straits Times 1 Feb. 1999; China Press 29 Jan. 1999), although he admitted there was nothing the government could do to stop the practice (New Straits Times 1 Feb. 1999). According to the New Straits Times report:
Kadir added that citizenship would be granted yearly on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration "sufficient proof of sincere and stable marriages," whereby foreign spouses would initially be granted permanent resident status.
The process of attaining citizenship, he said, "takes time" as the applicants' background would be investigated first.
"They would also need to meet other mandatory requirements, like having good knowledge of the national language, contribution to society and other related factors."
On 2 August 1999 the New Straits Times reported that Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid had indicated that the government did not intend to intervene in cases of Malaysian women marrying foreign workers because it "respects such decisions as the personal right of individuals." The authorities could only stop such marriages, he said, "if there was enough evidence to indicate the law had been breached by the couple" (ibid.). In response to a media report about the hardships faced by Malaysian women who married and migrated with their Bangladeshi worker husbands, Azmi stated the government had given the women "ample warnings" about the dangers of marrying foreign workers, particularly those from poorer countries (ibid.). He added that the granting of permanent resident status to those who married Malaysians would "continue to be decided on a case-by-case basis" ibid.).
On 29 October 1999 the Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported that State Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Development and Communications William Mawan Ekom had advised Iban community leaders, particularly those in rural areas, not to solemnize marriages between foreign workers and local women, and to discourage relationships between them. Such marriages, stated Mawan, resulted in complicated registration procedures and created numerous problems, including obtaining Malaysian citizenship for the children (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Agence France Presse (AFP). 4 October 1996. "Malaysia Mulls Freezing Immigration of Bangladeshi Workers." (NEXIS)
Bernama. 29 October 1999. "Don't Solemnise Marriages Involving Foreigners, Community Leaders Told." (NEXIS)
China Press. 29 January 1999. "The Government does not encourage inter-marriages between Malaysians and foreigners ." (Asia Pulse 29 Jan. 1999/NEXIS)
High Commission for Malaysia, Ottawa. 25 November 1999. Correspondence from Third Secretary.
New Straits Times [Kuala Lumpur]. 6 September 1999. "Do Away with Archaic Laws." (NEXIS)
_____. 2 August 1999. "Marriage with Foreigners a Personal Right." (NEXIS)
_____. 1 February 1999. "Indian Muslim Citizenship Woes Being Looked Into." (NEXIS)
The Straits Times [Singapore]. 4 October 1996. "Growing Concern Over 'Bangladeshi Connection'." (NEXIS)
Additional Sources Consulted
Research Directorate Malaysia citizenship file.
Resource Centre Malaysia country file.
Electronic sources: IRB databases; LEXIS-NEXIS; WNC; Internet sites, including:
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Derechos Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch (HRW).
New Straits Times Press [Kuala Lumpur].
Suara Johor [Johor Bahru].
UK Home Office country assessments.