WOMEN’s Aid Organisation senior advocacy officer Rusni Tajari said that under the current legal framework in Malaysia, there was no specific law that dealt with cyber-harassment and stalking was presently not classified as a crime.
She said an individual facing such problems could at best lodge police reports.
“They can also file a complaint with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), under the Communications and Multimedia Act that prohibits obscene, indecent or offensive online content.
“If the publishing or threatened publishing of personal photographs is part of a broader pattern of domestic violence, then the victim can also file a police report and obtain protection under the Domestic Violence Act of the penal code,” said Rusni.
She said there were multiple forms of domestic violence --- psychological, social and financial abuse.
“One factor that has changed in recent times is that technology is being used in different ways, such as to monitor a partner’s whereabouts by tracking their phone or by installing spyware to monitor their online activities,” she pointed out.
She said society must provide the support system and ensure that survivors were not stigmatised.
“This may further isolate them and stop them from reporting the abuse and seeking help.“We must not excuse domestic violence or dismiss it as a personal matter.
“If the perpetrator is not held accountable by the community, it appears the violent behaviour is acceptable, and likely to lead to more aggression,” she reiterated.
Rusni said domestic violence victims generally faced hurdles in escaping from the abuser and getting help, including legal aid.
She stressed that the authorities, when dealing with such cases, must be sensitive to the survivors’ plight.
“Recognise their trauma and accord them their right to protection.“Help by pointing them to shelters and other support services.”
MCA publicity bureau chairman Chan Quin Er said those who attempted to blackmail women using nude photographs could be charged under Section 509 of the Penal Code, for insulting the modesty of a person.
She said this was a serious matter and it was a crime even if the photographs were not posted online.
“For example, in a case in Penang, where a 17-year-old girl jumped to her death after her boyfriend threatened to post obscene pictures of her online, the authorities took action against the threat,” said Chan, who is also a volunteer at Wanita MCA’s Legal Advisory and Women’s Aid Centre (Lawa).
She said action under Section 509 also applied to photographs taken without consent, especially images that show the subject in a vulnerable or private moment.
“Women mostly will not consent to such pictures being distributed.
“The very act of publishing such pictures online are an offence under Section 233 (1)(a)
of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.“It is a crime to send a public electronic message that is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.
“The offender can be jailed for up to one year or fined RM50,000 or both,” she elaborated.Chan cited another case involving a software engineer who had created a fake Instagram account under his girlfriend’s name and posted semi-nude pictures of her to shame her online.
She said the woman lodged a police report and the culprit was quickly caught.
“He pleaded guilty and was fined RM4,000.
“I am of the opinion that the fine should be stiffer to deter culprits.” she said.
She reminded women to always beware and under no circumstances let themselves be convinced to be photographed in the nude.
“Your relationship might be good at present but if things go wrong, the pictures could be used against you,” she said.
Chan urged victims to go to the police or to a recognised non-governmental organisation for help.
She also urged victims or witnesses of domestic violence to contact Lawa, which also provides family and marriage counselling services as well as social welfare assistance.
She added that abuse victims could also call the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s Talian Kasih hotline 15999 for help.n LAWA 03-2203 3884 or 012-386 3884 Monday to Friday from 8.45am to 5.30pm
n WAO (24-hour) hotlines 03-7956 3488 or 018-9888 058 (WhatsApp or SMS)