Survey backs calls to make stalking a crime in Malaysia, WAO hopes govt speeds up legislation

Stalking is usually described as the wilful and repeated following, watching or harassing of another person to the point where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe and scared. ― Picture by Gift Habeshaw/Unsplash via Reuters
Stalking is usually described as the wilful and repeated following, watching or harassing of another person to the point where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe and scared. ― Picture by Gift Habeshaw/Unsplash via Reuters

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — A recent survey conducted by research company Vase.ai and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) shows more than a third (36 per cent) of Malaysians have experienced stalking.

The joint effort by WAO and Vase.ai was done to gauge Malaysians’ understanding of stalking, as Malaysia currently has a little data on it, amid growing calls to make the act a crime in the country and provide protection to survivors.

Stalking is usually described as the wilful and repeated following, watching or harassing of another person to the point where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe and scared.

However, Malaysians don’t often report stalking to the police as they are under the impression that not much can be done under the law.

According to Vase.ai co-founder Julie Ng, at least 69 per cent of respondents who experienced an act of stalking did not report it to the police. 

Of these respondents, nearly half (45 per cent) did not lodge a police report because they didn’t believe they could or would help.

As for the 31 per cent of respondents who did make a police report, nearly half (47 per cent) said they were not satisfied with the action taken by the police.

According to Vase.ai co-founder Julie Ng, at least 69 per cent of respondents who experienced an act of stalking did not report it to the police.  — Picture courtesy of WAO
According to Vase.ai co-founder Julie Ng, at least 69 per cent of respondents who experienced an act of stalking did not report it to the police. — Picture courtesy of WAO

“Making stalking a crime would enable the authorities to better respond to reports, and ensure those being stalked are protected,” she said.

Deputy executive director of WAO, Yu Ren Chung, also weighed in during the online media presentation today, saying that although Malaysia has laws covering related crimes, such as domestic abuse and public nuisance, they are limited and do not address stalking per se.

“We do not have protection or restraining orders for stalking. We can’t easily get one from the police if someone is following you. However, we can get one through the civil process, but it is expensive.

“Some don’t even make a police report because they think there is nothing the police can do or even think that stalking is a crime,” he said. 

The joint survey interviewed 1,008 nationally representative Malaysian men and women. Based on the survey results, acts associated with stalking experienced by Malaysians include receiving unwanted phone calls or messages, receiving unwanted gifts, being watched or followed, having individuals show up at their home, workplace or school unwanted, and having their property vandalised.

One in eight (12 per cent) respondents (8 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men) experienced stalking involving threats of harm, and one in six (17 per cent) respondents (12 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men) experienced stalking which led to actual harm.

Almost half of Malaysians (46 per cent) who experienced acts associated with stalking said they had a negative impact on their daily life. 

Nearly one-fifth (18 per cent) of respondents who experienced an act associated with stalking said they were unable to focus in their employment place; 17 per cent could not or didn’t feel safe being alone in public; and 6 per cent could not or did not feel safe attending university or a skills training course.

What’s the government’s current stance on an anti-stalking law?

Although the survey results found that 69 per cent of Malaysians believe that stalking is wrong, the high prevalence and low reporting rates suggest there may be a gap in the law, whereby although stalking is a fairly common occurrence, it is going unreported and unpunished.

Deputy executive director of WAO, Yu Ren Chung, said that although Malaysia has laws covering related crimes, such as domestic abuse and public nuisance, they are limited and do not address stalking per se. — Picture courtesy of WAO
Deputy executive director of WAO, Yu Ren Chung, said that although Malaysia has laws covering related crimes, such as domestic abuse and public nuisance, they are limited and do not address stalking per se. — Picture courtesy of WAO

Yu said he hopes the current Minister of Law, Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, will take heed of the new survey results and lead the government in making stalking a crime without delay.

“The call for a stalking law started in 2017, during Barisan Nasional days, and the Women’s Ministry back then was supportive of creating the law.

“When Pakatan took over, we worked with the late law minister Liew Vui Keong. There was a lot of progress. He set up a committee consisting of different agencies including WAO, the Home Ministry, PDRM, MCMC and the Women Ministry.

Everyone was of the view that stalking is a serious threat.

“Currently, we are told that the new law minister is preparing a Cabinet paper. We hope the current government adds a bit more urgency and gets this done sooner with these survey results evidently supporting such calls,” he said.

More details about the survey are available at https://vase.ai/data-trust/projects/anti-stalking. WAO’s report on the survey results is available here.

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