“My ex-husband and I had an abusive relationship. After we split up, he made repeated attempts to contact me through friends and family and even showed up at my place of employment. His calls and messages have been completely blocked.”
“After I turned down his request for dinner, he tried to be aggressive again, and this time it ended tragically for me.”
These are only two of the many situations a victim of stalking must suffer. In this article we’ll cover the anti stalking laws in Malaysia and discuss the following:
Previously, Malaysian law did not criminalise the act of stalking. However, on March 29 of this year, the Parliament amended the existing Penal Code (Act 574) by inserting a new Section 507A to make stalking a criminal offence. Before we get into the details of the new law, let us look at what kinds of actions are considered stalking and why stalking laws need to be enforced right away.
As a term, “stalking” may be challenging to define. When one individual becomes captivated or obsessed with another person, this is known as stalking. Stalking typically manifests itself through conduct that invades someone’s personal space, limits their independence and freedom, and causes them to feel frightened and threatened. It is the act of repeatedly and intentionally contacting, following or harassing another person without their consent, causing distress or fear for their safety.
88% of the 1008 respondents (including both men and women) in a poll conducted by Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation reported that they had experienced at least one act related to stalking. Nearly 45% of victims did not file a police report because they felt the authorities would not or could not assist them.
Some behaviours that can be interpreted as stalking include the following:
The effects of stalking extend far beyond those of sheer discomfort or annoyance for the victims. Victims of stalking often experience severe and long-lasting mental and physical distress due to the experience.
Before the amendment, no legislation specifically addressed harassment. However, the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) does provide victims of harassment with the same indirect form of protection, as Section 2 of the DVA broadly defines domestic violence to include placing or attempting to place a victim in fear of physical injury. This conduct also comprises a form of stalking for which a victim of domestic violence may seek a protection order against the perpetrators in the context of DVA. However, the existing law is lacking in numerous ways.
The DVA law is inadequate because it fails to include repeated and continuous following and contact, the most fundamental form of stalking. In addition, DVA only protects spouses, ex-spouses, or family members. It does not cover harassment and intimidation committed other than by these three persons. The law regarding stalking must not overlook the fact that victims may also be harassed by their boyfriend or girlfriend and by strangers.
After two years of heated debate in the Malaysian Parliament, the government has amended the Penal Code to protect stalking victims. On May 31st, 2023, the new law went into effect, providing victims of stalking with a legal avenue to seek protection against their stalkers.
Section 507A (1) states that:
Whoever, repeatedly by any act of harassment intending to cause or knowing or ought to know that the show is likely to cause distress, fear, or alarm to any person of the person’s safety commits an offence of stalking.
(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), the act of harassment may include the following:
(3) Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years or with a fine with both.
(4) In this section, “repeatedly” shall refer to at least two occasions
According to Section 507A, in order to establish that an individual has committed the crime of stalking, it must be shown that the offending behaviour has been repeated at least twice, that the victim has been disturbed by it, and that they are in a condition of stress or fear as a result. If the investigation uncovers evidence that the stalker was acting under the direction of someone else, that person may also face charges under Section 34 of the Penal Code, which provides as follows:
“When a criminal act is done by several persons, in furtherance of the common intention of all, each person is liable for the act in some manner as if the act were done by him alone.”
Briefly, here are the most critical parts of the recently enacted Section 507A:
When a victim files a police report, they may petition the court for a protection order prohibiting the person under investigation for stalking from harassing the victim directly or indirectly. This is important to protect the survivor from more harassment or retaliation while the police investigate the case. According to the new laws, if the perpetrator violates the protection order, they can be arrested because violating the protection order itself is a seizable offence.
For a long time, being stalked was a “soul-destroying” experience for the victims. This was made worse by the fact that there were no laws to criminalise stalking or punish the person committing it. Unless the stalker was caught in the act, it was difficult for the police to show that someone was being stalked. With this new law, people who have been stalked might finally find relief. The amendment is also the result of years of work by activists, lawmakers, and survivors who were brave enough to tell their stories. Recognising the gravity of stalking and its impact and implementing forward-thinking methods to solve it will help us establish a safe society and nation where stalking is not tolerated and where victims are safeguarded from further harm.