KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Stalking someone — whether physically or virtually — is set to be criminalised for the first time come December as Putrajaya seeks to have the Anti-Stalking Bill passed in both Houses during the upcoming Parliament session in October.
The Bill, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said, would criminalise the act of stalking someone on “at least two occasions” with a conviction punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine.
“If both Houses of Parliament (lower and upper Houses) pass the Bill in October, it is likely it would come into effect by December,” Mas Ermieyati was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini during a meeting with civil society organisations.
Mas Ermieyati said the law was worded in a manner that would allow room for investigating officers and the prosecution team to match the elements of proof as criminal offences.
However, the amendments do not stipulate a fine amount and she explained that this would be left to the court’s discretion.
It is to note that the law is taking effect after the government introduced amendments to the Penal Code (Act 574) which addresses issues such as criminal intimidation, insult and annoyance.
With the introduction of Section 507A to the said law, it would now make stalking an offence.
The Bill also introduced criminal liability based on probability, worded as “likely to cause, distress, fear or alarm”.
Descriptions of harassment are also broadened, for example, “communicating or attempting to communicate with a person in any manner or by any means”.
The Bill, she added, would also introduce a protection order which could be issued by the court, taking into consideration the victim’s request.
Mas Ermieyati also urged men to come forward with their experience of being harassed and stalked since the offence is not gender-specific.
Separately, Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) committee member Meera Samanther pointed out that the definition of stalking should be broadened to include “continuous acts” and not just limited to “repeated acts”.
“While we gladly welcome the Bill, we have to point out that a number of key issues are missing.
“For example, we feel that the list of acts of stalking should be non-exhaustive and not limited to certain acts.
“It should also include acts like doxxing, interfering, destroying or damaging property, spying as well as cyber stalking,” she said.
Deputy public prosecutor Zilfinaz Abbas who was also present at the aforementioned meeting explained that many cases got thrown out by the court in the past because elements in the actions could not be matched to the wording of the law.
“We haven’t prosecuted stalking cases but keeping the meaning open will allow the investigating officer to open a case.
“So far, it has been difficult to open an investigation because there was nothing in the law that matched the elements of proof required to prove acts of stalking.
“Hence, these amendments are good because victims can go to a police station and report on being stalked,” she said.