Stalked, harassed but unprotected: Women want anti-stalking laws that keep them safe

Women like Sofia are desperately calling for stalking to be made a crime so that they can feel protected and safe. (Photo posed by models: AZMAN GHANI/ The Star)

The testimony of Sofia (not her real name), a woman who has been stalked by an ex-partner for the past two years, was terrifying and emphasised the urgent need for anti-stalking laws to protect the safety and well-being of women and girls.

Sofia’s testimony at the Women’s Tribunal last weekend was presented by a proxy as she didn’t feel safe revealing her identity. Since 2019, Sofia has been harrassed via calls, obscene emails and text messages (up to a hundred messages a day) and has had her social media accounts hacked numerous times.

Her stalker has shown up at her condominium and even though the management of her condo has measures in place to stop him from coming in, she is always in fear of him showing up as he continues to threaten her.

He has told her that he will only stop his harassment if she has sex with him once a week and discloses to him all her personal and intimate relationships from the time they broke up.

Sofia has made several police reports in the past two years and once, a police officer offered to call her stalker. But Sofia feared the retaliation from her stalker especially since the law could not offer her protection as stalking is not a crime in Malaysia.

“I am a survivor of stalking and assault and have not been able to put an end to my horrifying experience because there is no protection for victims of stalking.

“Stalking is not a crime in Malaysia and it is completely devastating to be a victim. I have to live in constant fear and I worry every day that my stalker might harm me or my family,” she said in her statement.

For women who are stalked and harassed, the fear never goes away as they don't know where and when their perpetrator will show up or what he will do. Illustration: Shika/Women's TribunalFor women who are stalked and harassed, the fear never goes away as they don't know where and when their perpetrator will show up or what he will do. Illustration: Shika/Women's Tribunal

Another victim of harassment and intimidation who presented her live testimony was Shakila Zen, a 29-year-old environmental activist who was threatened due to her work.

She was not only harassed and doxxed online but a replica of a bloodied severed hand was delivered to her home in August with a note threatening harm on her and her family.

During the Tribunal, Shakila broke down several times while relating her story. She says she’s still “laying low” as she’s still traumatised by what she went through but was determined to testify “to bring to light the harassment that female activists have to go through”

“I want everyone to know that young women activists are intimidated and receive threats on a daily basis but we don’t have a platform to talk about it.

“For me, the final straw was when I received the parcel with a bloodied hand. The Women’s Tribunal has given me a platform to talk about this. Even though it was like reliving my trauma all over again, it was a safe space where I was supported and believed,” she says.

Shakila recounted her experience going to the police for help. She said that though her statement was recorded, she didn’t feel there was an urgency to find her perpetrator; rather her case was treated like “just another case”. That is, until her story went viral and was reported widely in the news as well as online.

“It was only then that the police took some notice. And even so, the case is still under investigation. There have been no arrests yet. I made two other reports on the online harassment and obscene comments about me and there has been no progress on those either,” she says.

So, Shakila testified in the hope that “others won’t have to face what I’ve had to face”.

“The easiest part is talking about it. The hardest part is not thinking about it daily without getting a panic attack. To be honest, everyday I live in fear not knowing when or whether the perpetrator will harm me physically or if they just want to make me lose hope,” she shares, adding that she is still living in fear “as I don’t know who the perpetrator is”.

Shakila hopes that the government will follow through on pending laws that will provide protection from women who live in fear of perpetrators who are free to terrorise them with impunity.

“I hope violence against women can be stopped immediately. Every bill should be tabled now and don’t make any excuses for delaying them. I really hope no other woman, especially woman activists, get threatened and I hope more brave women step up to do the right thing for other women and for Malaysia,” she says.

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