A Step Towards Progress: Malaysia Passes Anti-Stalking Law


Shunnar Virani

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, so Vanderbilt’s Project Safe Center has advocated for anti-stalking causes to start in 2023. As this important effort draws to a close, it is important to note recent developments in Malaysian stalking laws. Previously, Malaysia, like other countries in Asia, did not have any laws that criminalized non-physical acts of stalking. 

Thanks to a long-time effort by women’s advocacy groups, an anti-stalking law was finally passed in Malaysia. The Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of Malaysia’s parliament, unanimously approved a bill that criminalized acts of stalking on Oct 3, 2022. The proposed section of law defines stalking as a “repeated…act of harassment, intending to cause, or knowing or ought to know that the act is likely to cause distress, fear or alarm to any person of the person’s safety.”

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said, “We need this amendment to the law and its inclusion as an offense in order to afford more protection to women and I am glad various efforts, together with suggestions from NGOs and stakeholders, allowed us to make stalking an offense under the Penal Code.” 

Previously, any action that did not involve physical aggression was to be dealt with solely by the victim in their private and domestic lives. Under the former legal system even if law enforcement were to get involved in a stalking case, each incident would be dealt with as a separate case rather than recognizing a pattern of activities and evaluating it as dangerous, continuous behavior. 

With the passage of the anti-stalking bill, harassment that does not involve physical contact will also be criminalized. Such actions will include unwanted communication, loitering at a person’s house, or sending someone unsolicited items. These actions may be punishable with a sentence of up to three years in prison, or a fine, or both.

A study reported that 90% of murders committed by intimate partners have been preceded by some form of stalking. In fact, many incidents of stalking and these drastic effects were taken into account before the passage of this law. 

In 2021, a 31 year old woman was stabbed to death in front of her children by her boyfriend. The woman had filed multiple police reports against her boyfriend for harassment prior to the incident. The man was arrested once for trespassing because he broke into her home, but he continued harassing her after his release and no further action was taken by the police. At the time, there was no law that would have deemed such acts of stalking to be criminal. 

Such acts of stalking are common in the Asia-Pacific region. However, few countries have adopted anti-stalking laws. These countries include Singapore, India, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. Malaysia joins these countries with the passage of its anti-stalking laws.

“I am sure from now on 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,” Samusdin said. “There are many incidents where the perpetrator got away with it but with this amendment, we can prevent that.”

Photo by Thilipen Rave Kumar from Pexels