Vital to enact anti-stalking law to protect victims, say groups

PETALING JAYA: An anti-stalking law must be enacted to prevent grievous injuries and even murders that are often preceded by stalking, say women’s rights groups.

Speaking on behalf of the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Meera Samanther said quite often, many forget that stalking is a crime of terror that causes the victim to live in fear for their own safety.

She added that there is an urgent need for anti-stalking legislation to prevent Malaysians from experiencing grievous harm that may lead to murder.

Once legislated, what is equally important is that investigations be carried out on stalking, gathering of evidence and prosecution.

“The criminal justice system must protect the victims,” Meera, who is also part of the Anti-Stalking Committee, said yesterday.

Her comments came ahead of the much-anticipated passing of the Anti-Stalking Bill, which will go for the second reading in Parliament next month.

The WAO also called for the Bill to add doxing (the act of publicly revealing previously private personal information about an individual online), interfering with property and spying to the list of acts of harassment.

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.

WAO also said that the definition of stalking should be broadened to include continuous conduct.

“The current Bill recognises that stalking consists of repeated acts, for example a stalker may repeatedly try to follow and contact you.

“But stalking can also be a single but continuous act such as when a stalker may continuously follow you from your office to your house.

“These situations can turn dangerous,” it added.

The WAO also called for the anti-stalking law to extend the effective period of stalking 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.

“The court should be given the discretion to extend the effective period of protection orders beyond the investigation or trial period to protect the survivor,” said the WAO.

It added that these recommendations were consistent with stalking laws in other countries such as Britain, Singapore and New Zealand.

The initial versions of Malaysia’s anti-stalking law were developed by the Anti-Stalking Committee, which was made up of government agencies, WAO and the Bar Council, while survivors of stalking also contributed their views.

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