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Malaysia’s Anti-Stalking Law Takes Action




Imagine this; Being pursued by an inordinately obsessed admirer who relentlessly makes  multiple advances at you despite being constantly rejected, and thus proceeds to follow you across the country just because they simply can’t get enough of you! Or how about receiving unwelcomed gifts  at your front doorstep from an anonymous pursuer?. And so you take action.  Only to be let down by the police when  they indifferently dismiss you with the excuse that there has been no physical assault. So how does that work in your favour, if at all


The hypothetical scenario described above are plausible and have definitely occurred in the past, but are not exhaustive ways in which stalking can arise. Antecedent to the passing of the anti-stalking law, there were only a few existing laws in regards to stalking, such as the Domestic Violence Act 1994 and Public Nuisance laws governed by the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. However, they do not adequately address stalking due to a number of limitations, main one being that these existing laws do not provide protection or even restraining order rights for the victims. In 2020, other countries such as Singapore and India have all implemented specific laws on stalking, whilst the cruel experiences of many victims in Malaysia show that at that present point of time, the current existing laws did not adequately provide much help when it comes to them being stalking targets.


The “Survey supports calls to Make Stalking A Crime in Malaysia” survey conducted in 2020 by the Women’s Organisation and Vase.ai proved  a distressing result wherein 88% of the 1008 respondents have experienced an act associated with stalking, with the majority of respondents being female. A majority of them admitted that these acts of stalking have detrimentally affected their lives in an economic, social, educational sense and negatively impacted their day-to-day household activities. Heartbreakingly , when asked why most of them chose to not  lodge a formal police report, they simply did not have faith that the police could or even would help them. 


Fortunately enough, a significant stride towards safeguarding personal boundaries and ensuring the well-being of citizens is in effect, and the Dewan Rakyat has recently passed amendments that impose both physical and online stalking as a severe crime. The new Section 507A of the Penal Code marks a pivotal moment in addressing the pressing affair of stalking, reflecting Malaysia's  commitment to illustrating a more protected environment for its citizens. By criminalising intrusive and harmful conducts, the new law not only empowers victims, but also serves as a deterrent to potential offenders. This beginning sets the stage for a closer examination of Malaysia's proactive approach in fostering a culture of respect, security, and the protection of individual rights through its latest legal framework. 


Moreover, under Section 507A Penal Code, stalking has been  defined as the repeated act of harassment, whereby there is an intention or knowledge to cause distress, fear, or alarm to any persons for their safety. As such, stalkers may  be investigated and thus charged in court  to be punished with imprisonment of up to three years, a fine or both. Section 507A can be seen as implemented in an action which involved a 37-year-old man, who was the first to be charged under said Section, for stalking and sexually harassing a famous female photographer by sending unwarranted lewd photographs of himself and also following her all the way to the United Kingdom. 


Presently,  targeted victims may  now seek assistance  from the police, who may petition the court for a Protection Order for Stalking, which essentially prohibits your stalker from stalking you any further or going near you. If said stalker breaches the Protection Order, rest assured that they will  be arrested for committing an offence. 


The authorising of this amendment provides a victorious occasion for the women’s organisations as YB Tuan Ramkarpal acknowledged the NGO’s contributions to the passing of the anti-stalking law. Women’s rights activist Ivy Josiah of the Women’s Aid Organisation, applauded the consistent contribution of several NGOs who have been cooperating tirelessly to the various laws and constitutional amendments, namely the Domestic Violence Act, amendments to the Rape Act and also the establishing of the new anti-stalking law. 


Additionally,  Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri of the Women, Family and Community Development, has made such honorary efforts, wherein the Anti-Sexual Harassment Advocacy programme was set up to increase awareness and accommodate knowledge to the Malaysian citizens, as well as provide beneficial data and psychosocial services in order to curb this ongoing issue. 


As of the current December 2023, nine stalking cases have been investigated, and although it is admitted by the police that there are still weaknesses and loopholes when it comes to administering stalking cases since  the amendment is still fairly new, it is advised for the victims to lodge their concerns and reports to the police so that the issue can be dealt with in the proper and formally-legalised manner. 


With the implementation of Section 507A of the Penal Code, it provides  much  assurance for the many previous victims who have experienced stalking beforehand.  The newly implemented Section 507A Penal Code provides for a deterrent towards potential offenders in order to help reassure the victims that their plea for help will be heard and acknowledged. It encourages the victims, both for women and men, that they should not be afraid of their perpetrators, no matter if they are an employer or a powerful person, and that they should be justified when they exercise their rights in combating this situation. 

 



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