Malaysia should look to UK and Singapore to update stalking laws – activists
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Malaysia should look to UK and Singapore to update stalking laws – activists

MALAYSIAN activists are calling upon the country’s legislators to look towards the United Kingdom and Singapore’s laws criminalising stalking to better protect Malaysians targeted by strangers.

There is no legal protection at present, a concern recently voiced by Members of Parliament during the debate on the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2017 last week. Civil society welcomes these calls to make stalking an offence, emphasising the dangers the lack of legislation will cause.

“Many countries already specifically criminalised stalking. The UK and Singapore, for example, have legislation which Malaysia can look to,” Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy manager Yu Ren Chung told Asian Correspondent.

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A victim is not able to seek help from authorities with the limited legislation currently in place, as in many cases, police can only intervene once the stalker has harmed the victim, according to Yu.

And while an amendment to Malaysia’s Domestic Violence Act in 2012 allows local courts to issue protective orders to stop strangers from physically abusing or even communicating with victims of domestic violence, activists state it does not cover stalking and relationships between unmarried people.

The WAO estimates there are more than 250,000 domestic violence survivors in Malaysia who were stalked by their abusers, before leading to more severe forms of violence.

Lawyer Goh Siu Lin echoes WAO’s suggestion to look at the legislative reforms in the UK and Singapore, both of which have criminalised stalking.

“UK was very proactive and groundbreaking in the sense after one year of intense lobbying, in partnership with an NGO, secured changes in the law. It was in record time,” Goh, who is also former president of the Association of Women Lawyers said.

Introduced late 2012 after a series of fatal stalking cases, UK’s new stalking law carries a maximum six-month sentence while stalking involving a fear of violence or serious distress carries a five-year prison term.

Whereas in Singapore, the Protection from Harassment Act goes as far as making international cyber-stalking – for example, when the stalker and the victim are in two different countries – an offence.

Stalking there is punishable by a fine of up to SGD4,000 (US$2,942), imprisonment for up to a year, or both. The Act also allows police to arrest without a warrant anyone deemed to be flouting the law.

In her parliamentary reply last Tuesday, Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said the government was looking into “developments” related to stalking and “will consider to make it a crime in the nearest future,”.

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Selangor’s Community Awareness Association (Empower) executive director Angela M. Kuga Thas welcomes Rohani’s approach of the issue, but urges for a speedier reform process.

“I would also like to remind the ministry we cannot take 10 years the way we did with the DVA (Domestive Violence Act) to protect women from such violations,” Angela told Asian Correspondent.

While Malaysians wait for a standalone Act to become a reality, Angela implores for Rohani’s ministry and the Education Ministry to double efforts to educate the public and students on the harms of stalking.