Condoning the Economic Abuse of Women

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Yamina lawmakers Ayelet Shaked (R) and Bezalel Smotrich, September 16, 2020.

For too many years, women worldwide have been struggling to realize their right to economic freedom. This fight is taking place not only in the labor market, where women as a group have not achieved parity with men in wages and in status, but also within the patriarchal family unit. Israel is no exception in this regard.

Numerous studies have shown that for many Israeli women, economic abuse by an intimate partner is not a theoretical debate, but rather a painful reality. A 2011 survey by the Na’amat women’s organization found that about 5 percent of Israeli women are not free to make decisions on household expenses and do not have free access to a bank account. One-fifth – 21 percent – reported that their partners check each of their expenses, 9 percent said they needed their spouse’s approval for every expense and 14 percent said they had no information about the family’s financial situation.

Many participants in this study and others described complete economic dependence on their spouses, against their will, which translates into dependence on a toxic relationship. This is a controlling mechanism. The women become captive in their own homes. It is classified as economic abuse, or economic violence, but lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina), Ariel Kallner, Shlomo Karhi and Amit Halevi (Likud) don’t care about that. For them, the draft law against economic violence, which is meant to enable the courts to help these women, is mainly an opportunity to advance their conservative agenda against Israel’s justice system.

Smotrich claimed the bill would enable women to “extort” their husbands, Karhi argued it would “destroy families” and Kallner went so far as to claim that maybe those women simply did too much shopping.

This same conservative coalition within Yamina and Likud, which professes to be shocked at the idea of the law’s interference in family life, naturally supports such intervention when it is sanctioned by Jewish religious law. Progressive civil family laws are an integral component of any liberal democracy, but this gang doesn’t want a liberal democracy – it champions procedural democracy, minus its liberal values.

Their opposition to the law to prevent economic abuse is merely a pretext for these parliamentarians to lash out again at anything that the left suggests. They must not be permitted to turn disempowered women into victims in this struggle. This important bill must be supported.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.