Refuge for abused women in Malaysia

Apr 9, 2012

Being a non citizen wife in Malaysia

Dear donors,

Imagine that you are all alone and miles away from your home country. What happens when you lose all your important documents like your identification card or a passport? Of course, the first thing to do is to run to the nearest police station, lodge a report and head to the embassy for help.

This scenario leads to our topic of non citizen wives in Malaysia. Married to Malaysian husbands, the women have to depend on them to maintain their legal status in the country. The renewal of the “long term social visit pass” for non citizen wives requires the physical presence of the husband at the Immigration office. The pass must be renewed every year. If you’re thinking that’s inconvenient, there’s more.

After living for 5 years in Malaysia, you can now apply for permanent residency and off you go to the Immigration department again. However, you will still need the Malaysian spouse to be present to endorse your application. While you wait for decades for it to be processed, you want to find a job and earn a living. The Malaysian spouse must give a written permission for their wives to work. It’s impossible to be independent.

Things get even more complicated when there’s a situation of domestic violence. We met *Kelly, a non citizen wife, when she came to WAO for help. She was physically abused by her Malaysian husband. She was terribly hurt and traumatized. She made attempts to run away but was caught every time and beaten in the end. She made a police report but was forced to withdraw it. She was separated from her young children and is now seeking help to locate them. She just wants to find her children, go back to their home country and leave this ordeal behind.

Kelly will not be the last person affected by bureaucracy that doesn’t seem to give much support to “foreign” wives. What are non citizen wives eligible for then? Can they get permission to remain in the country? What about work authorisation? Why isn’t there any exception for non citizen wives who are also domestic violence survivors?

WAO’s advocacy work also includes lobbying for the rights of non citizen wives. We compile a report and submit memorandums seeking change in policy implementation so that all women including non citizen wives living in Malaysia do not face discrimination. Today, there are approximately 50,000 non citizen wives in our country.

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*Name has been changed to protect identity



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Project Leader

Ivy Josiah

Petaling Jaya, Selangor Malaysia

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