Malaysia became the latest Asian country to make progress against stalking on Monday after its Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of the country’s parliament, unanimously passed a landmark anti-stalking bill.
The legislation, tabled by Deputy Law Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, seeks to penalize physical, digital and other forms of stalking with a maximum imprisonment of three years, a hefty fine or both, depending on the circumstances.
The bill would amend the country’s penal code by introducing a new sub-section, 507A, which defines the crime of stalking.
“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 proposed subsection reads.
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Samsudin reportedly cited data from a study conducted by the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) — a Malaysian NGO — which revealed that 36% of Malaysians felt scared after experiencing stalking. Another 17% suffered physical injuries, while 12% received threats.
“According to 69% of Malaysians, stalking is a crime,” Samsudin said, according to Coconuts Kuala Lumpur. “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.” In April 2021, a 31-year-old woman from Ipoh was fatally stabbed by her boyfriend in front of her two sons, aged 6 and 8. Prior to the grim incident, she had lodged several police reports against the suspect, but he was only arrested once for trespassing, as per Vice World News. With the passage of the bill, Malaysia joins a group of Asia-Pacific countries that have introduced laws against stalking. These include India, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore, among others.
“I’m sure from now on [that] those who are vulnerable and in need of better protections will get them, and I want to thank all of those who offered their input,” Samsudin told the Dewan Rakyat. “There are many incidents where the perpetrator got away with it but with this amendment, we can prevent that.”
The bill is expected to become law after passing through a committee and the Dewan Negara, the upper house of Malaysia’s parliament. However, there are still some concerns to be addressed, such as broadening the definition of stalking to include doxxing, property damage and spying, Mashable noted.
Featured Image via Pixabay (representation only)