Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) welcomes the tabling of law amendments to make stalking a crime, in the House of Representatives for first reading.
When enacted, this law will help protect thousands of Malaysians who experience stalking each year. It will also prevent grievous injuries and even murders that are often preceded by stalking.
The law includes the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, which creates the offence of stalking, and the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2022, which creates a protection order for stalking survivors.
This anti-stalking law is needed.
A study by Women’s Aid Organisation and Vase.ai found that over a third of Malaysians – including 39% of women – have experienced stalking, which caused them fear.
More and more countries have enacted specific legal provisions on stalking, most recently South Korea last year.
There is comprehensive support to make stalking a crime in Malaysia, including from enforcement agencies, civil society, academics, legal practitioners and the public.
Initial versions of the law were developed by a anti-stalking committee, comprising government agencies, the WAO and the Bar Council. Survivors of stalking contributed as well.
We believe the current bill is robust, and we urge MPs to support it.
Nonetheless, we propose three amendments which would further improve the bill.
Broaden the definition of stalking to include continuous conduct
The current bill recognises that stalking consists of repeated acts – for example, a stalker may repeatedly try and follow and contact you.
But stalking also can be a single but continuous act. For example, a stalker may continuously follow you from your office to your house. These situations can also be dangerous.
Add doxing, interfering with property, and spying to the list of acts of harassment
Stalking laws usually list acts associated with stalking. The current bill lists following, communicating, loitering around someone’s house or workplace, and sending things as acts that may amount to stalking (if repeated and reasonably causes fear, distress or alarm).
This list can be improved by adding doxing, interfering with property, and spying. These are also common stalking behaviours.
Extend the effective period of stalking protection orders
A key component of stalking laws is enabling survivors to obtain protection orders. The bill creates a protection order, but the protection order can only remain in effect for the duration of the investigation and trial.
Courts should be given discretion to extend the effective period of protection orders beyond the investigation or trial period, if necessary, to protect the survivor.
All these recommendations are consistent with stalking laws in other countries like the UK, Singapore and New Zealand.
The government’s move to table the anti-stalking law is appreciated, and we look forward to continue working with the government and policymakers to pass the bill. – WAO