Watch out: Malaysia passes anti-stalking bill in parliament

After heavy scrutinisation, Malaysia has officially passed the Anti-Stalking bill in parliament today. It was passed via a voice vote after being tabled for the third time.

The legislation aims to change the Penal Code to make stalking, whether it be virtually or not, a crime punishable by up to three years in jail, a fine, or both, depending on the circumstances.

The amendment aims to introduce a new sub-section, namely 507A, as it is tough at the moment to prove stalking as a crime under Section 507 of Penal Code.

The proposed new section reads:

“Whoever repeatedly by any act of harassment, intending to cause, or knowing or ought to know that the act is likely to cause distress, fear or alarm to any person of the person’s safety, commits an offence of stalking.”

The bill to amend the Penal Code was tabled by deputy law minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin with its first reading in August.

Mas Ermieyati cited data from research by the Women’s Aid Organization titled “Understanding Malaysians’ Experiences Of Stalking,” which revealed that 36% of Malaysians had experienced stalking and felt scared, 12% had received threats, and 17% had suffered injuries as a result of stalking.

“According to 69% of Malaysians, stalking is a crime,” she said, referring to the data.

“The research also found that stalking and harassment have negative effects towards the victim’s life in terms of economic, social, recreational, and matters of childcare,” she said.

Repeated internet stalking would also be regarded as a crime under the legislation because it might cause the victim mental and emotional anguish.

Melissa Akhir, a representative from Kemban Kolektif, one of the civil rights groups that campaigned for the bill, told Coconuts while there was no resistance against the bill, there was just emphasis on improving the bill, which Melissa deemed as a “good parliamentary process”.

“The mood is cautiously jubilant, as we still need to ensure that implementation aspects are kept watertight in ways that are stalking survivor-friendly and accessible,” she added. This refers to how cases like these are handled by the police and prosecutors.

“At the Senate and beyond, as Kemban Kolektif has trained police, prosecutors, magistrates, and judges on victims’ access to justice,” she said.

When asked how confident she is that the bill would secure the lives of the public, she said the amendment to the Penal Code would have a stronger force on written criminal law.

She cited the lack of enforcement on the part of The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) which only investigated 963 out of 15,238 online harassment complaints lodged from 2016 until September last year.

The 963 cases investigated by MCMC were related to online abuse via social media and investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Only 60 cases have been brought to court with 241 charges filed against the perpetrators.

“This amendment is the first step, mandatory SOPs the second, and public mainstreaming at all districts, particularly via public transport ads, social media, police stations, and prosecutors office in Malaysia would be the third step,” she said.

Louise Tan, a representative from Woman’s Aid Organisation, another civil rights group that lobbied for the bill, told Coconuts the main problem right now is there is no stalking legislation at all.

She said when survivors want to take action on stalking, the perpetrator can only get charged for individual events and not the sum of them.

“For example, the perpetrator might do three things: (1) follow the survivor to her workplace (2) harass the survivor’s friends and coworkers (3) tamper with her car; under our current legislation, the perpetrator might only get charged for tampering with her car,” she said.

For now, the bill has not been passed into law yet as it needs to go through a committee and the Dewan Negara.

“It will most likely become law, after that, hopefully, there will be mandatory training for law enforcement officers and inter-agency meetings to work out how to address internet cyberstalking,” Louise said.

“But it’s a major step closer to having those protections for survivors in their hour of need.”

The country, albeit politically shaky, also managed to pass the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill in July after thirty years in the making.

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