On the 19th of May 2020, a young girl Thivyaanayagi Rajendran from Kampung Kebun Nenas took her life, after battling harassment, stalking, cyber bullying and hate speech targeting and victimising her on Facebook through a TikTok video featuring herself and her working colleague, a foreigner.
She carried with her the pain of being trolled mercilessly and ambushed by mostly Malaysians after a Facebook page belonging to “Jocker Oruvan” vilified her and shared her pictures with her colleague. The page admin encouraged netizens to ‘bless’ her with their comments after he or she insinuated xenophobic remarks against the foreigner.
The post was shared by many who burnt her with vulgar, hurting and abusive comments and was not taken down despite being asked by her family members.
What happened to Thivyaanayagi is not the first case of cyberbullying, harassment, stalking and hate speech that had led to the victim taking her own life and will not be the last.
She had made a police report on the 19th but the comments kept coming in, some worse than the previous ones. Although the matter was said to have been referred to the cybercrime unit, it was still up and the admin refused to remove the video and delete the post and had the nerve requesting for Thivyanaayagi to come up with an apology video which she did not.
Bullying, whether emotional, physical or online rises from a person who intentionally physically or emotionally inflicts pain on others especially one who is weaker or has less power. In the case of Thivyanaayagi, it was also a toxic mixture of misogyny, patriarchy and was loaded with sexism on ‘what and how an Indian girl should be and behave’ and not to mention spiteful comments that were so xenophobic in nature against her foreign friend.
The topic of bullying, harassment has been raised in Parliament time and time again and finally in the last 22 months, a draft of the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code had been discussed, deliberated and finalised by many stakeholders especially the Ministry of Women, Family and Community development and the Welfare Department, Home Ministry and agencies like D11 and the Criminal Investigation Department, Royal Malaysian Police, the Anti-Stalking Committee in the Attorney General’s Chambers, SUHAKAM, the Malaysian Bar Council, as well as civil society entities such as Women’s Aid Organisation, Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), Sisters In Islam (SIS) and many others.
The draft is now ready for the Minister of Law to table, urge and to convince ministers in the cabinet meeting that this amendment must be given the same importance as many other issues, as the MCO during this COVID-19 period has seen a rise in hate speech via online media and a possible scenario of depression, anxiety, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia in post COVID-19 times. This anti-stalking legislation, which would cover online harassment, has already been prepared by an inter-agency committee between 2019-2020 and the government has no excuse in delaying this law.
However, the Malaysian Government still must come up with other legislation to address bullying and cyberbullying as the current laws are clearly insufficient.
At the same time, it is also the responsibility of social media platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and even YouTube to respond immediately when hate speech, cyberbullying, stalking and harassment are present and remove the post for violating their guidelines, and to contact the authority if there are criminal elements present.
Let Thivyanaayagi’s death not go in vain.
To her family, we offer our heartfelt condolences.