PETALING JAYA: The first Malaysian case of a man to be charged with stalking will send a clear message to perpetrators that victims will no longer have to suffer in silence because there is now a law to protect them, say activists.
Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) committee member Meera Samanther said that more importantly, it is critical that victims and survivors are aware that they now have access to apply for a protection order that can help them deal with ongoing harassment.
“Making stalking a criminal offence is certainly a step in the right direction and fundamental to the protection of every individual who has to deal with such an issue.
“This new provision and the outcome will impact not just the survivor but also other individuals who have had to grapple with it in their daily lives,” she said yesterday.
Meera was asked to comment on the significant case of the first person ever to be charged under the new Section 507A of the Penal Code with stalking.
The 37-year-old Malaysian man had allegedly stalked and sexually harassed photographer Acacia Diana since 2016, sending her lewd photographs of himself and even followed her to Britain.
She said she hopes that Acacia will be able to find justice and come to terms with all that has happened as well as have the much-needed resources to recover from the ordeal.
Meera also said that while these are the early days of the law being applied, it must be acknowledged that there is a need for continuous training of police personnel who are often the first point of contact for survivors and who need to be aware of the intense trauma that is perpetrated on the survivor.
“We also need to train prosecutors who will play a critical role in how the case is handled in court,” she said.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy director Abinaya Mohan saluted Acacia and others like her for their courage in speaking up about their experiences “without which we would not have this law today”.
“It’s another reason for all of us to believe and support them fully.
“As reporting of cases will pick up, WAO hopes that all parties involved in assisting and investigating will take the matter seriously and implement the law with care for the survivors’ justice.
“We also hope that the government is tracking the statistical data of cases,” she said.
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) programme director Karen Lai said the organisation is glad that the new provision is being used less than six months after being passed.
“We hope that the legal proceedings will move expeditiously and fairly, and that justice will be meted out in order to protect the rights, safety and well-being of the complainant,” she said.
Lai expressed WCC’s support for all victims of stalking and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence and encourage them to seek emotional support from women’s NGOs such as WAO, Awam and WCC, which can also provide information on their legal rights and protection.
“Our sister organisation WAO deserves special credit for its excellent advocacy leading to the enactment of the anti-stalking law,” she added.
Malaysians Against Rape, Assault and Snatch Theft (Marah) founder Dave Avran said he will be keeping tabs on the development of the case.
“I am in support of this law and will be watching this case with interest as it is a precedent.
“Stalking a person is a common occurrence, so I am hopeful that this case will serve as a deterrent in the future,” he said.
“I hope the stalkers out there pay attention to this case and realise that their actions will no longer go unpunished,” he said.