From Fear to Justice: Malaysia’s Strides Against Stalking

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Stalking is now a criminalised act in Malaysia. Source: Shutterstock

Once I was walking in a car park alone and I thought I saw him and I started to panic. It was not him, however, that panicky feeling stayed with me all day. And that’s the worst part. That even though he has stopped following me and showing up at my shows, I still worry he will show up somewhere.”

Stalked For a Year

For one year, 35 year-old singer-songwriter and MIX FM radio announcer Dasha Logan, was stalked by a stranger, leaving her feeling panicky, anxious, less likely to perform in public and suffering from emotional and psychological trauma.

Dasha, who performs regularly at multiple venues in Kuala Lumpur, explained in an interview with makchic that her alleged stalker first reached out to her via social media last year, after watching her perform in a public venue. From there, he met her in person and had what seemed like an innocuous conversation – which soon turned out to be a year-long nightmare.

Source: Dasha Logan’s website

“He started showing up frequently at my shows and even at venues my friends were performing at, because he knew I would drop by! Basically any place I would mention on social media, he would be there. After a while, I had an unsettling feeling in my gut and knew this was not normal. He would tap my shoulder if I walked by unknowingly. Soon, he started texting my close friends about me. I just wanted him to leave me and my friends alone.

He would notice when I was not on my usual radio show slot, he even started leaving me gifts at places I would hang out with my friends, he sent mail to my office, and bought me flowers during Valentine’s Day at places I would sing at. I even considered doing less shows because of the situation and unwanted attention. He would send me love songs and poems via Facebook,” Dasha shared.

Dasha, who is the daughter of one of the founding members of popular Malaysian band Alleycats, the late Datuk Loganathan Arumugam,  is just one of thousands of Malaysian women who have been stalked and live in fear of their safety every year. 

Jazz and soul singer Dasha with her late dad, Loganathan from the Malaysian band Alleycats. Source: Dasha Logan’s website

What Defines Stalking?

The law (under the new Section 507A of the Penal Code) defines stalking as the repeated act of harassment, which is intended or is likely to cause distress, fear, or alarm to any person for their safety. If someone is repeatedly following you, tracking and communicating with you, showing up at your house or workplace, sending you things, or committing other acts, either online or physically, that make you distressed or scared — you may be a victim/ survivor of stalking.

Stalking includes online harassment. Source: Unsplash

Online stalking, or cyberstalking (also covered as a crime), refers to the persistent, unwanted, and intrusive behaviour exhibited by an individual towards another person, using digital platforms. These behaviours can include relentless online harassment, non-consensual distribution of intimate images, online impersonation, doxxing, and unauthorised tracking through geolocation. 

The New Anti-Stalking Laws

Women’s rights protection groups, such as WAO, have been trying for years to make stalking a crime in Malaysia. Source: WAO X

Stalking was never deemed a crime in Malaysia, until now. After years of advocacy by women’s rights protection groups, such as the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Malaysia finally passed a new law in May 2023, making stalking a crime in the country. In the same year, by early August, a 37 year-old man was the first Malaysian to be charged under the newly enacted Section 507A of the Penal Code for stalking a female photographer from 2016, and even continuing to stalk her after she moved to London in 2022 to avoid him. If found guilty, the accuser may face up to 3 years in prison or a fine, or both. The court has approved a protection order for the victim, which prevents the accuser from communicating or approaching the victim in any way until the conclusion of the case.

It is worth noting that the victim had made two police reports during that time (in 2018 and 2022), but nothing could be done due to the lack of legislative protection.

More Awareness Needed

While WAO applauds this new law, they are still, however, pushing for the government to ensure that police officers and front-line responders are made aware of stalking as a crime, so victims are not turned away – especially as more cases are likely to be reported after this charge.

Photo by: WAO Website

WAO, who is seen as the country’s largest service provider for domestic violence survivors since the 1980s, is celebrating 40 years of advocacy this year, and they feel that the country has come quite far in terms of legal protection and access to justice for women in the past four decades. 

“There have been some major milestones to the efforts in eliminating gender-based violence. However, we must acknowledge that enactment and implementation are two different issues. We still have a long way to go to ensure that we stop the culture of blaming survivors and perpetuating gender stereotypes,” says Abinaya Mohan, WAO Advocacy Director.

According to Abinaya, the biggest challenge, even after 40 years of advocating for women in this county, is shifting the mindset of the community on how they view and perceive violence against women.

“In our 2021 Study on Malaysian Public Attitudes and Perceptions towards Violence Against Women, only slightly more than 50% of those in Malaysia agree that violence against women is wrong and of this, only 43% trust women’s reports of violence. These are fairly low figures, indicating that there is a trust deficiency of the experiences of those who face violence, particularly women. Changing this may take another 40 years, but it is a priority for all of us at WAO.”

How You Can Take Action

If a survivor lodges a police report, they may apply for protection orders, which prevent escalating harassment and retaliation from the perpetrator.

Dasha explained that she did not go to the police, because she did not hold on to any of the messages, gifts, notes or any form of communication from the individual. However, her advice to anyone who thinks this might be happening to them is to make a police report with whatever proof they have.

According to Abinaya, there are several ways for survivors to now prepare for the process of making a police report. These include:

  1. Documenting the experience in your own words, with as many details as possible. Establish a timeline of what happened to maintain consistency in telling your story when lodging a report later. Include crucial information, such as the date, time and location of the stalking incidents, and if possible, include witnesses and screenshots or recordings of the stalking attempts, as they are happening. 
  2. Lodging an action report at the nearest police station, and asking the Investigation Officer (IO or Pegawai Penyiasat) to issue a Protection Order. 
  3. Seeking a support system and not doubting your experience. Have a safety plan and communicate it to trusted family and friends.

There is Hope

Anyone found guilty of the offence is liable for a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment or a fine, or both. Source: Unsplash

The biggest recourse one can hope for, after these reports are made, are for the survivors to be believed and further action to be taken before things escalate. Thanks to this much-awaited and needed law (and with effective implementation), lives can be saved, and more women will be able to break free from their cycles of fear and confusion, and to finally find the safety they need.  

If you need help regarding stalking or other forms of gender-based violence, call the WAO Hotline at 03-3000 8858 or SMS or WhatsApp Tina at 018-988 8058. If you think someone you know is being stalked, point them to the right resources and numbers. Encourage them to seek help, validate what they are going through, and try to guide them through the process.

Many moons ago, Hema was a journalist in bustling KL, enjoyed exploring Malaysia as a travel writer, worked for an airline to get cheap flights (!) and is currently regaining her sanity after having kids. She enjoys bugging her husband to find out if her cooking is nice enough and loves to share her recipes on her website -  The Sudden Cook.