Malaysia Becomes Latest Asian-Pacific Nation to Pass Anti-Stalking Law

Acts that fall within the bounds of stalking are now punishable with a fine and/or a sentence of up to 3 years in jail.

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In a historic first for the Southeast Asian nation, Malaysia has passed its first-ever bill criminalizing stalking.

The Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia’s lower house in parliament, green-lit the new law on Monday. Its passage comes to much relief from women’s advocacy groups, which had lobbied for the legislation for years, dating back to at least 2014. The legislation is set to criminalize repeated acts of aggression and non-violent harassment, such as following someone, sending them unsolicited items, repeatedly trying to unwantedly communicate with them, and/or loitering at their place of residence.

Acts that fall within the bounds of stalking are now punishable with a fine and/or a sentence of up to 3 years in jail.The new amendment comes after years of dedicated work from activist groups, as well as a number of high profile cases of violence against women that originated as stalking incidents. In 2013, a report by the Women’s Aid Organisation, a Malaysian NGO, looked at 34 domestic violence cases in the nation and found that 26% had been stalked by their abuser, a similar rate to other nations, including the U.S.

Per outlets like VICE and Reuters, one of the main impediments to effectively policing stalking in Malaysia in the past has been the fact that, culturally, such incidents are often perceived purely as a private or domestic matter instead of a legal one. Furthermore, even when law enforcement becomes involved in a stalking incident, the individual acts that make up a pattern of behavior are often investigated separately, rather than as part of one dangerous continuum.

“I’m sure from now on [that] those who are vulnerable and in need of better protections will get them, and I want to thank all of those who offered their input,” Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister for the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law), said in a statement. “There are many incidents where the perpetrator got away with it but with this amendment, we can prevent that.”

In passing the anti-stalking bill, Malaysia joins a number of Asia-Pacific nations with such legislation, including Singapore, India, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.