Stalking now a criminal offence

KUALA LUMPUR: Parliament finally passed an anti-stalking law to complement the Anti-Sexual Harassment law.

The amendments to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which makes stalking a crime, was tabled for the second and third reading and passed in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The Bill sought to amend the Penal Code (Act 574) to introduce a new section – 507A – which states that a person has committed stalking if the individual repeatedly, by any act of harassment, intends to cause or knowing or ought to know, that such an act causes distress, fear or alarm to any person with regard to their safety.

In tabling the amendment to the Penal Code Bill, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and Law Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said the provision for the anti-stalking law was for criminal offences while the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill was more for civil claims.

“The burden of proof for both laws is different.

“That is why we need this amendment so that it can fill in the lacuna in the anti-sexual harassment law, so that they can complement one another,” she said.

Citing statistics from a study by a research company and Women’s Aid Organisation, Mas Ermieyati said 36% of Malaysians had experienced stalking, with victims, who can be of either gender, often living in fear.

Some 12% have been threatened, while 17% have suffered injuries.

She said police personnel from the Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) unit had also been given specific training on stalking.

“The dimension of stalking these days has become more challenging as it is not only limited to physical acts, but also includes virtual stalking through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and others.

“The amendment to Act 574 will also cover stalking through social media, with the aim of completely overcoming stalking,” she said.

Mas Ermieyati noted that the aspect of continuous stalking had been taken into account, with the inclusion of the word “repeatedly”, which she said refers to at least two incidences of stalking.

Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut) had proposed that the word “continuously” be included after repeatedly.

“I am worried if the Bill is passed with the existing provisions without the word continuous, I am concerned many cases may not reach court,” said Yeoh while debating the Bill.

Those convicted of the offence may be sentenced to imprisonment of not more than three years, a fine or both.

As for the CPC, the amendments, among others, seek to introduce a new chapter into Act 593 to empower the court to issue a protection order against a person who is being investigated for, or is charged with an offence of stalking, under the new Section 507A of the Penal Code.

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