The Banking Supervision Department announces the expansion of the “Banking Availability Covenant” to reduce economic violence against battered women in shelters and half-way houses
Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber said, “Unfortunately, there are many women in Israel who are experiencing economic violence alongside physical violence. In order to help them, the Banking Supervision Department, together with the Association of Banks and the banks themselves, has led a voluntary covenant that will provide a rapid and professional response to the financial difficulties being experienced by battered women. Focused banking guidance, which is defined and provided to these women on a personal and individual level, will help make it easier for women experiencing strong gyrations in their personal lives, and enable them to start a new and independent financial path.
“As part of the program, the bank will use various tools, such as freezing the joint account and opening a new account for the woman, examining the possibility of a division of debts between the woman and the violent spouse, and suspending Collections and Enforcement proceedings. The covenant is now being expanded, and will also provide targeted assistance to women in shelters who have no legal status in Israel.”
Miri Ben-Shalom-Dor, director of the “Isha LaIsha” shelter in Jerusalem, said, “The financial state of many women in the shelters has improved dramatically since the covenant came into force. In view of the fact that the banks understand the unique state of these women in managing their accounts, the women feel more secure in extending their independence, and the banking system has become an ally of the battered women’s shelters in their important mission of empowering the women to manage their own financial affairs.”
The women in the battered women’s shelters and in the half-way houses are generally forced to escape their homes and abusive spouses without any assistance or means, and have difficulty in properly managing their finances, in overcoming the economic violence they have experienced and in turning over a new page in their lives. About 750 women per year stay in battered women’s shelters and half-way houses.
The economic violence these women have experienced includes: taking the woman’s money, controlling her by granting her a limited monthly cash allowance, creating a constant threatening atmosphere of “financial crisis”, transferring joint assets by the spouse without the woman’s knowledge, preventing the woman from going out to work, and more.
Recognizing the need to assist this population group, the banking system decided to accede to requests from the Banking Supervision Department and from various social organizations, and to establish a voluntary banking covenant to make it easier for battered women in shelters and half-way houses to cope financially. The aim of the covenant is to help these women start a new and independent financial path.
The covenant was launched in January 2016, and has so far provided a response to hundreds of battered women, mainly through freezing mortgages with just one party’s signature, addressing requests to leave a joint account or delete the husband from the account, opening a new account, debt restructuring and clarification of liens, and cancellation of queries and credit cards.
The main points of the covenant:
- The appointment of a contact person at each bank with appropriate training to provide a creative and rapid solution to problems that come up, regardless of the location of the shelters or the branches where the women’s accounts are managed.
- Providing a rapid financial response with the aim of preventing a violent husband from financially harming the woman.
- Freezing the joint account and opening a new account for the woman.
- Dividing debts between the woman and the violent husband.
- Suspending Collections and Enforcement proceedings, and suspending late-payment interest for a year and a half.
- Financial guidance and education to provide an understanding of the alternatives available to the woman
Shelter directors are in direct contact with the banks’ representatives, the Association of Banks and the Banking Supervision Department regarding the implementation of the covenant in the field, and a yearly meeting is held to provide broad updates, with the participation of Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber, Association of Banks Director General Mr. Moshe Perl, the directors of the shelters and the bank representatives.
Expanding the covenant to women with no legal status
The broad update meeting was held last week at a battered women’s shelter in the Jerusalem area. At that meeting, an update was provided regarding the expansion of the covenant so that it will also help women with no legal status who come to battered women’s shelters and half-way houses.
Such women are not recognized at all by the authorities. For the most part, they are women who came to Israel as foreign workers or as tourists (including those brought to Israel as part of trafficking for purposes of prostitution) and remained in the country after their permits expired, women who married Israeli husbands (or were bought by them abroad) without having their status arranged, women holding a temporary visa that must be renewed every few months, etc.
This group of women is the weakest group in the shelters, and they cope with additional financial difficulties beyond those experienced by battered women with proper legal status (such as the inability to find work, rent an apartment, receive subsistence payments, etc.)
A special team established by the Bank of Israel will provide approvals outside the norm for banks’ requests to open accounts for these women who are in shelters and half-way houses, and who have any kind of identification documents (such as a visa or passport) that has expired, provided they meet the Prevention of Money Laundering Order requirements. It should be emphasized that the request must be submitted to the banks through the director of the shelters where the women are staying.