The Banking Supervision Department held its annual update meeting on the “Financial Availability Charter” – Expanding how banks deal with economic violence against battered women
The Financial Availability Charter is a voluntary charter that was launched in January 2016 with the aim of helping to deal with the ramifications of economic violence against women who are in shelters and half-way houses. The Charter provides financial solutions that are adapted to the needs of such women, which will help them overcome the economic violence they have experienced and to open a new chapter in their lives. Since the Charter was launched, approximately 1,650 women have received assistance in dealing with economic violence in a variety of ways: opening a new account, debt arrangements and clarification of liens, freezing mortgages with the signature of one party, requests to exit a joint account and deletion of account holders from the account, cancellation of credit cards, and more.
At the annual update meeting on the Financial Availability Charter, Supervisor of Banks Yair Avidan said, “In the situation of increasing violence in society, the Banking Supervision Department’s message to victims of violence is one of economic independence. We are advancing this through this important charter. I believe that providing financial solutions that will enable the victim to break free of the bonds of economic control will help them get out of the circle of violence. The financial system has a business orientation that is geared partly toward maximizing shareholder value, yet not all financial profits are equal. Profits generated while providing social value have a greater strategic value. It is proper, and even obligatory, for businesses, including the banking system, to take responsibility and have a positive impact on their human and physical environments—as part of their ‘operating license’. In conclusion, I welcome the completion of the pilot and the expansion of the charter, and I thank the Association of Banks, the banks themselves, the credit card companies, and the Postal Bank for the assistance in the financial sphere they are providing to victims of violence as part of the implementation of the charter.”
As part of the annual update of the charter, two new components were added this year:
1. Completion of the pilot and expansion of the charter to 169 family violence treatment centers spread across the country. In this way, the financial institutions that are partners in the charter are prepared to apply it at all centers operating in Israel. This is a very significant expansion of the activity, since the potential number of victims of violence who can be helped by it is dramatically higher than it was during the pilot. Since the centers provide response to male victims of violence as well, while shelters assist only women, the expansion of the charter to the centers means expanding its response to this additional population group as well.
2. Handling situations in which the victim’s debts include debts toward a number of creditors. Such situations make it difficult for the financial institution to provide complete assistance to the victim. In such cases, the charter sets out that the financial institution will try, together with the contact person at the center or shelter, to contact a representative of the “Debtor in Need” field in the Enforcement and Collections Agency. As part of this contact, an effort will be made to find appropriate solutions in the enforcement proceedings, as well as debt arrangement solutions with a number of creditors including financial institutions.
The charter was formulated and advanced by the Banking Supervision Department and the Association of Banks in Israel, together with the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, the banks, the credit card companies, the Postal Bank, the “Ruach Nashit” (Women’s Spirit) organization, the nonprofit organizations that operate the shelters, and various social organizations.
The main characteristics of economic violence include: 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.
In order to deal with this kind of violence, as part of the Charter, each bank has an appointed contact person with appropriate training to provide a creative and rapid response to problems that occur, regardless of the location of the shelters or the bank branches where the victims’ accounts are managed.
Following a number of years of operation, during which many victims of violence have been helped by the charter, a pilot program was launched in June 2019 to expand the program to help victims of violence who are being helped in centers to prevent and treat family violence in the community, in collaboration with the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, and the “Ruach Nashit” (Women’s Spirit) organization. The pilot began by providing responses to victims of violence being treated at 10 centers, and was later expanded to 17 centers, and in the past year, it was further expanded to 60 centers. In view of its success, it has now been decided to end the pilot and expand the program to all 169 family violence treatment centers throughout the country. This is a very significant expansion of the activity, since the potential number of victims of violence who can be helped by it is dramatically higher than it was during the pilot. Further to the success of the pilot, as of March 6, 2022, the financial institutions are prepared to apply the charter in all centers in Israel. In advance of this change, adjustments were made to the text of the charter.
A number of speakers delivered remarks during the meeting, including Association of Banks in Israel CEO Eitan Madmon, who detailed how the services that the financial institutions provide as part of the charter will be expanded to all community assistance centers; Ms. Lili Ben-Ami, founder of the Michal Sela Forum, named for her sister who was murdered by her husband, who shared Michal’s story and discussed a number of warning signals in a violent relationship; Dr. Karni Krigal, a sociologist, researcher in the Poverty, Environment, and Society Research Unit at Bar Ilan University, and knowledge developer in the area of family violence at the Ministry of Welfare’s Central School, who discussed the interface between data and people and the promotion of conceptual, cultural, and legal change using research; and Ms. Ula Najami Yusef, Director of the safe communities initiative at the Abraham Initiatives Organization, who discussed gender violence in Arab society and measures to decrease it.
The Financial Availability Charter (in Hebrew) is attached as an appendix to this notice. For more information on the charter on the Bank of Israel website, see https://www.boi.org.il/en/ConsumerInformation/Pages/economicviolence.aspx
 Since most victims of violence treated at centers are women, the charter was drafted in reference to the female gender. However, it is intended for women and men and provides for assistance to victims of violence from both genders.