Before we take you to the nitty gritty aspects of stalking, let’s imagine the following scenario:
Your phone rings… You check the caller ID and are at your wit’s end when you see that it is yet another unknown number. You block the number on instinct. You reach for your keys and head out.
The moment you step out of your house, your phone beeps with an incoming message:
“It’s late.Where are you going? By the way, nice dress.”
You feel a sickening lurch in your stomach and quickly take stock of the surroundings. You notice his car sitting in the far corner of the street outside your house. You immediately go back into the house, locking all your doors.
This guy has been stalking you for the longest time, following you around, leaving these messages, watching your every move. You feel trapped and violated…
You finally decide that enough is enough and you call the police. When they arrive, you relate your ordeal to them, only to have the police say:
“There is nothing we can do because he hasn’t committed any crimes.”
That’s right, it isn’t a crime to stalk someone in Malaysia
Stalking is commonly understood to be the unwanted persistent following or spying of a person. As far as that definition goes, Malaysian laws do not recognise stalking as a crime. The definition of stalking can be quite technical as the acts of stalking are non- exhaustive, but for a more comprehensive definition of stalking, click here.
Stalking doesn’t only happen between spouses/ ex spouses/ intimate partners. It is also possible to be stalked by complete strangers.
You would probably be surprised by the fact that stalking is not prohibited by law but did you know that there have been calls to criminalise stalking in Malaysia and that the campaign to make stalking a crime actually began as early as back in 2013?
So, it’s been 5 years… why is stalking still not a crime?
ASKLEGAL spoke to Tan Heang Lee, Communications Officer of the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), who told us:
“Back in 2013-2015, multiple women’s groups came together and worked with the Attorney General’s Chambers and other parties to criminalise stalking. Unfortunately, things didn’t go through so we are now trying to revive the conversation to make stalking illegal.” [emphasis added]
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), a coalition of 13 gender equality NGO’s to which WAO is a party, has been tirelessly pushing for anti-stalking laws in Malaysia.
“Currently, there are no laws on stalking in Malaysia. So if someone follows you around or regularly shows up at your workplace, it is not a crime unless that person harms (or threatens to harm) you. This is problematic because by the time harm is done it’s too late.” – Heang Lee, [emphasis added]
For detailed stalking statistics in Malaysia, read WAO’s statement here.
No law = No protection
Without stalking laws, someone could be continuously following you around and making you feel unsafe but yet nothing can be done about it. Further, there is nothing to prevent stalkers from causing further harm.
HOWEVER, while following a person around is not a crime, there are certain things that stalkers may do that are considered crimes under current laws. Here are just some examples (note that this list is non-exhaustive):
Under Section 233 of this Act, it is an offence to send annoying, abusing, threatening or harassing messages to another person.
It is an offence to install tracking devices and/or hack into someone’s computer or online accounts under Section 3 of this Act.
It is a criminal offence to do anything to insult the modesty of another and/or intrude upon the privacy of another under Section 509 of the Penal Code.
Assaulting someone (even something as simple as a slap counts) or attempting to assault is also a Penal code offence.
Committing any form of violence against a spouse amounts to domestic violence, which is an offence under this Act.
Note that following a spouse around to stalk him/her is not considered a form of domestic violence- the current position is essentially the same with non- married partners.
So.. if there are all these other laws, why do we still need a specific law to prohibit stalking?
Because prevention is better than cure
You may recall the fairly recent murder-suicide incident involving a man and his ex-wife at a law firm in KL. The man had reportedly stalked his ex-wife multiple times prior to gunning her down. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2013, another Malaysian man stalked his ex-wife before hiring gangsters to chop her thumb off:
These real life incidents tell us that stalking often precedes more violent forms of crimes such as serious physical attacks and even murder.
To drive home the point further, take this scenario for example:
Every morning without fail, Robert stalks Madonnna as she commutes to work. He says nothing nor does anything to her. All he does is follow her to the building where she works. Madonna is terrified that he might hurt her one day, but there is nothing the police can do. Robert isn’t committing any crimes by just following Madonna around.
One day, Robert decides to do something different. He stalks Madonna to work as usual, but this time he starts running towards her with a knife while yelling “I’m going to kill you!” and stabs her. He has committed a crime by stabbing her.
To further explain the above scenarios:
- Scenario 1: Robert following Madonna is not a crime even though Madonna feels threatened
- Scenario 2: Robert stabs Madonna and this is a crime but...it’s too late now
The above scenarios are exactly why we need to have laws that allows stalkers to be arrested before they can go on to do any actual or further harm.
For now, what should you do if you’re being stalked?
Although the police cannot arrest stalkers merely for following you around, it may still be worth making a police report as you never know which crimes may have been committed in the course of stalking.
In Malaysia, there are 2 types of police report that can be filed:
- action report
- cover report
An action report requires the police to investigate a case. On the other hand, a cover report is made just to put the case on record without asking the police to take action.
“Our advice would be to make a police report regardless of how the case proceeds. Just making that police report could potentially be a deterrent against stalkers.” – Heang Lee [emphasis added]
Always remember that no matter how bad the situation is, you’re never alone. Even though stalking is currently not a crime, victims of stalking can also reach out to WAO for additional assistance through the following channels:
- Hotline: 03- 79563488 (Mon to Sat 9am-5pm; extended hours on Tues, Wed and Fri 7-10pm)
- SMS/ Whatsapp: 018- 988 8058 (24 hours)
On top of that...
You can help change the law
Jurisdictions like California (since 1990), UK, India and Singapore have passed laws to criminalised stalking. If you’re in support of Malaysia doing the same, WAO recommends informing our lawmakers by:
- Tweeting the law minister @Liew_Vui_Keong
- Sharing this article with the hashtag #makestalkingacrime
Also, if you’ve ever been a victim of stalking, you may also want to consider sharing your story to help others find the strength to overcome their situation.