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Laws relating to sex work and prostitution in Malaysia

An artist’s impression of Malaysia’s sex workers in front of Dataran Merdeka in the 1960s, one of three popular areas in the city centre where sex workers worked at the time.

13 January, 2020

This resource is referred to in our recent series of articles on sex work.

Federal Laws
Law Relevant Section Description
Child Act 2001 Section 43. Conviction for prostitution and trafficking of a minor (for the purposes of prostitution) (1) Any person who—

(a) sells, lets for hire or otherwise disposes of, or buys or hires or otherwise obtains possession of, a child with intent that the child is to be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution, either within or outside Malaysia, or knowing or having reason to believe that the child will be so employed or used;

(b) procures a child for purposes of prostitution or for the purposes of having sexual intercourse with any other person, either within or outside Malaysia;

(c) by or under any false pretence, false representation, or fraudulent or deceitful means made or used, either within or outside Malaysia, brings or assists in bringing into, or takes out of or assists in taking out of, Malaysia, a child with intent that the child is to be employed or used for purposes of prostitution, either within or outside Malaysia, or knowing or having reason to believe that the child will be so employed or used;

(d) brings into Malaysia, receives or harbours a child knowing or having reason to believe that the child has been procured for purposes of prostitution or for the purposes of having sexual intercourse with any other person, either within or outside Malaysia, and with intent to aid such purpose;

(e) knowing or having reason to believe that a child has been brought into Malaysia in the circumstances as set out in paragraph (c) or has been sold, let for hire, or hired or purchased in the circumstances as set out in paragraph (a), or in contravention of any other written law receives or harbours the child with intent that he is to be employed or used for purposes of prostitution either within or outside Malaysia;

(f) detains a child in a brothel against the child’s will;

(g) detains a child in any place against the child’s will with intent that the child is to be employed or used for purposes of prostitution or for any unlawful or immoral purpose;

(h) by means of any advertisement or other notice published in any manner or displayed in any place offers a child for purposes of prostitution or seeks information for that purpose or accepts such advertisement or notice for publication or display;

(i) acts as an intermediary on behalf of a child or exercises control or influence over the movements of a child in such a manner as to show that the person is aiding or abetting or controlling the prostitution of that child;

(j) engages or hires, for any valuable consideration, a child to provide services for that person’s sexual gratification;

(k) attempts to do any act in contravention of this section

commits an offence and shall on conviction—

(aa) in the case of offences under paragraphs (a) to (h) or paragraph (k), be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fifteen years or to both; and

(bb) in the case of an offence under paragraph (i) or (j), be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand ringgit and to imprisonment for a term of not less than three years but not more than fifteen years and shall also be punished with whipping of not more than six strokes.

(2) Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offence—

(a) under paragraphs (1)(a) to (g) or paragraph (1)(k), shall be liable to whipping of not more than ten strokes; and

(b) under paragraphs (1)(i) or (j), shall be punished with whipping of not less than six strokes but not more than ten strokes, in addition to any term of imprisonment imposed in relation to such offence.

Minor Offences Act 1955 Section 18. Disorderly conduct in hotels, boarding-houses, etc. (1) The keeper of any hotel, boarding-house, public house, common lodging house, eating house, coffee shop or other place of public entertainment or resort who permits drunkenness or other disorderly behaviour in such house or place, or permits prostitutes or persons of notoriously bad character to meet or remain for the purpose of soliciting or misbehaving therein, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding three hundred ringgit or in the case of a second or subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding five hundred ringgit.

(2) Whenever any person would be liable under the provisions of subsection (1) above to punishment for any act, omission, neglect or default, he shall be liable to the same punishment for every similar act, omission, neglect or default of any agent or servant employed by him in the course of his business as keeper of such hotel, boarding-house, public house, common lodging house, eating house, coffee shop or other place of public entertainment or resort; and every agent or servant employed by any person in the course of his business as aforesaid shall also be liable to the punishment prescribed by subsection (1) of this section for such acts, omissions, neglects or defaults as fully and effectually as if such agent or servant had been the keeper of such hotel, boarding-house, public house, common lodging house, eating house, coffee shop, or other place of public entertainment or resort.

Section 21. Drunkenness and disorderly behaviour in public places Any person who is found drunk and incapable of taking care of himself, or is guilty of any riotous, disorderly or indecent behaviour, or of persistently soliciting or importuning for immoral purposes in any public road or in any public place or place of public amusement or resort, or in the immediate vicinity of any Court or of any public office or police station or place of worship, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty-five ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen days, and on a second or subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both.
Section 27. Unlicensed hawkers (a) Every hawker wandering abroad and trading without being duly licensed or otherwise authorized by law;

Prostitutes

(b) every prostitute behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in or near any public road or in any place of public resort;

shall be deemed to be an idle and disorderly person and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to both.

Penal Code Section 372. Exploiting any person for purposes of prostitution (1) Whoever—

(a) sells, lets for hire or otherwise disposes of, or procures, buys or hires or otherwise obtains possession of, any person with such intention that the person is to be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or of having sexual intercourse with any other person, either within or outside Malaysia, or knowing or having reason to believe that the person will be so employed or used;

(b) by or under any false pretence, false representation, or fraudulent or deceitful means made or used, either within or outside Malaysia, brings or assists in bringing into, or takes out or assists in taking out of, Malaysia, any person with such intention that the person is to be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or of having sexual intercourse with any other person, either within or outside Malaysia, or knowing or having reason to believe that the person will be so employed or used.

(c) receives or harbours any person—

(i) who has been sold, let for hire or otherwise disposed of, or who has been procured, purchased, hired or otherwise obtained possession of in the circumstances as set out in paragraph (a); or

(ii) who has been brought into or taken out of Malaysia in the circumstances as set out in paragraph (b), knowing or having reason to believe that the person is to be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or of having sexual intercourse with any other person, either within or outside Malaysia, and with intent to aid such purpose;

(d) wrongfully restrains any person in any place with such intention that the person will be used or employed for the purpose of prostitution or of having sexual intercourse with any other person;

(e) by means of any advertisement or other notice published in any manner or displayed in any place for prostitution service or a service which a reasonable person would understand it to be a prostitution service, offers any person for the purpose of prostitution or seeks information for that purpose or accepts such advertisement or notice for publication or display;

(f) acts as an intermediary on behalf of another or exercises control or influence over the movements of another in such a manner as to show that the person is aiding or abetting or controlling the prostitution of that other, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to fifteen years and with whipping, and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) For the purpose of paragraph (1)(d), it shall be presumed until the contrary is proved that a person wrongfully restrains a person if he—

(a) withholds from that person wearing apparel or any other property belonging to that person or wearing apparel commonly or last used by that person;

(b) threatens that person to whom wearing apparel or any other property has been let or hired out or supplied to with legal proceedings if he takes away such wearing apparel or property;

(c) threatens that person with legal proceedings for the recovery of any debt or alleged debt or uses any other threat whatsoever; or

(d) without any lawful authority, detains that person’s identity card issued under the law relating to national registration or that person’s passport.

(3) In this section and in sections 372A and 372B, “prostitution” means the act of a person offering that person’s body for sexual gratification for hire whether in money or in kind; and “prostitute” shall be construed accordingly.

Section 372A. Persons living on or trading in prostitution (1) Whoever knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to fifteen years and with whipping, and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) Where any person is proved to have exercised control, direction or influence over the movements of a prostitute in such a manner as to show that that person is aiding, abetting or compelling the prostitution of the prostitute with any other person or generally that person shall, in the absence of any proof to the contrary, be deemed to be knowingly living on the earnings of prostitution.

Section 372B. Soliciting for purpose of prostitution Whoever solicits or importunes for the purpose of prostitution or any immoral purpose in any place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine or with both.
Section 373. Suppression of brothels (1) Whoever—

(a) keeps, manages or assists in the management of a brothel;

(b) being the owner of any place or the agent of such owner, or being the occupier of any place, lets the place or any part thereof with the knowledge that such place or part is to be used as a brothel or permits such place or part to be used as a brothel or is wilfully a party to the continued use of such place or part as a brothel,

shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to fifteen years, and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) In this section, “brothel” means any place occupied or used by any two or more persons whether at the same time or at different times for purposes of prostitution.

Section 377D. Outrages on decency Any person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of, any act of gross indecency with another person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.
Shariah laws
State Relevant Section Description
Terengganu Section 25. An act preparatory to prostitute Any woman who does an act preparatory to prostitute herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.
Section 26. An act preparatory to prostitute wife and child under his care Any person who does an act preparatory to-

(a) prostitute his wife or a female child under his care; or

(b) cause or allow his wife or a female child under his care to prostitute herself,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

Section 27. Prostituting wife or child (1) Any husband who prostitutes his wife or allows her to become a prostitute, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

(2) Any parent or guardian who prostitutes his child or a child under his guardian or allows his child or a child under his care to prostitute shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

Selangor, the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan), Penang, Kedah, Sarawak and Johor Section 23. Prostitution (Selangor)

 

Section 18 (Sarawak); Section 21 (Federal Territories, Johor and Penang);

Section 19 (Kedah)

(1) Any woman who prostitutes herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

(2) Any person who-

(a) prostitutes his wife or child or a child under his care; or

(b) causes or allows his wife or child or a child under his care to prostitute herself

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

Sabah, Melaka and Perlis Section 71. Prostituting wife or child  (Sabah)

Section 74 (Melaka)

Section 17  (Perlis)

(1) A man who prostitutes his wife or allows her to become a prostitute shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

(2) Any parent or guardian who prostitutes his child or a child under his guardianship or allows his child under his care to become a prostitute shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

Sabah Section 72. Prostituting oneself. Any woman who prostitutes herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
Melaka Seksyen 75. Melacurkan diri. (No English version available) Seseorang perempuan yang melacurkan dirinya adalah merupakan suatu kesalahan dan apabila disabitkan kesalahan boleh dikenakan hukuman denda tidak melebihi tiga ribu ringgit atau dipenjara selama tempoh tidak melebihi dua puluh empat bulan atau kedua-duanya sekali.
Perlis  Section 18. Prostituting Any woman who prostitutes herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
Kelantan and Pahang Section 19. Prostituting (Kelantan)

Section 178. Wife offering herself for prostitution (Pahang)

Any woman who prostitutes herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding four thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
Kelantan Section 18. Prostituting wife or child (1) Any husband who prostitutes his wife or allows her to become a prostitute shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

(2) Any parent or guardian who prostitutes his child or a child under his guardian or allows his child or a child under his care to prostitutes shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

Pahang Section 177. Husband forcing or allowing wife to prostitution. A husband who forces, approves or allows his wife to offer herself for prostitution with the intention of receiving earnings therefrom shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment of a term not exceeding two years or to both and to whipping of not more than six strokes.
Perak Section 46. Prostituting oneself A woman who prostitutes herself is guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
Section 47. Prostituting wife or child (1) A husband who prostitutes his wife or wilfully allows her to prostitute herself is guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both and may also be liable to whipping of not more than six strokes.

(2) A parent or guardian who prostitutes his child or a child under his care or wilfully allows his child or a child under his care to prostitute herself is guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both and may also be liable to whipping of not more than six strokes.

Negeri Sembilan Section 69. Prostitution Any woman who prostitutes herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
Section 71. Persons living on or trading in prostitution. (1) Any person knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to both.

(2) Where any person is proved to live with or be habitually in the company of a prostitute or prostitutes, or to have exercised control, direction or influence over the movements of a prostitute or prostitutes in such a manner as to show that such person is aiding, abetting or compelling her or their prostitution with any other person or generally, such person shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be deemed to be knowingly living on the earnings of prostitution.

Section 72. Prostituting wife or child. (1) Any husband who prostitutes his wife or wilfully allows her to prostitute herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both and liable to whipping of not more than six strokes.

(2) Any parent or guardian who prostitutes his child or a child under his guardian or allows his child or a child under his care to prostitute herself shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both and liable to whipping of not more than six strokes.

 

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