PETALING JAYA: Several women’s rights groups have urged the government to demonstrate seriousness in pursuing reforms that would protect women from stalking.
Acknowledging a government announcement that it was considering legislation to make stalking a crime, they said the matter must be treated with urgency.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy director Yu Ren Chung described stalking as an offence that was more serious than many people would think, saying it could lead to harm and even murder.
WAO, in a 2013 report, documented 34 cases of domestic violence in Malaysia, 26% of which involved stalking.
It estimates that 250,000 Malaysian women have been stalked in their lifetime and it is collecting victims’ anecdotes to use in a campaign to raise awareness.
“Law reform on stalking must centre on the experiences of stalking survivors, and we thank all the survivors who have courageously agreed to share their experiences,” said Yu.
Nisha Sabanayagam, speaking for All Women’s Action Society, said the absence of a law against stalking was limiting the options available to women’s groups in their work of supporting victims.
About the only action they could take now was to provide counselling, she added.
“We have an ongoing case in which a client’s ex-boyfriend would wait for her at her apartment complex, sends her messages that are creepy but not life threatening and generally makes her life so uncomfortable that she has had to move to a different state,” she said.
“She has made a couple of police reports but because the perpetrator does not threaten her physically, the police cannot do much.”
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group president Winnie Yee said she worried that the enforcement of the anticipated law might be lax in the rural areas of East Malaysia.
“In Sabah, one of the biggest problems is that we are not well covered,” she said.
She called for cooperation between the police, hospitals and agencies set up to protect women and children.
Former law minister Liew Vui Keong last year proposed a law to criminalise stalking and intrusion of privacy.
Last month, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun told Parliament the prime minister’s office was preparing a paper on the issue.