Dubai: It’s your salary, but your spouse keeps it, or he or she controls your ATM card. Is it a form of economic abuse?
Well, in the eyes of a lawmaker in the Philippines, it could be. He has proposed to expand an existing domestic violence law to “protect husbands” from financial abuse.
Representative Fidel Nograles filed House Bill No. 4888 that aims to amend the Violence Against Women and Their Children Law of 2004 and expand its protection coverage to include husbands and other members of the community and their partners.
The bill also proposes to penalise spouses or partners who “control the victim’s own money or property.” A “classic example” of this, he said, is seizing a partner’s ATM card and all salaries and “then depriving him or her of the choice how to spend the money”.
While it may be good to expand the coverage of the state’s protection against abuse, this section of the house bill has irked many in the UAE.
Dubai residents react
Dante Delizo, 61, a structural engineer based in Dubai, questions the need for such a law. Delizo has never kept his ATM card and has always entrusted his salary to his wife for the past 37 years.
“Giving your salary to your wife and allowing her full control to manage it should not be made a crime,” Delizo, who came to Dubai in 1985, told Gulf News.
“I make a living for our family and my wife is the household manager. Because of our arrangement, we were able to raise two daughters. One is a doctor now in the Philippines while the other is an architect here in Dubai.”
Delizo also credits his wife for their financial standing now.
“We have been fortunate to make wise investments because of my wife’s diligence with our—not just my—finances. If it were up to me, I guess I’d have nothing to show for my hard work of nearly four decades here in Dubai and would just be left with a pile of receipts. So no, it is not a form of economic abuse.”
Bill is an intrusion
Art and Rachel Salinel-Los Banos, who both work in the media industry in Dubai and are active leaders in the Filipino community, said this is a matter between husband and wife that the state does not have to meddle with.
“The proposed legislation is an intrusion of private lives. Before a man and woman get married in the Catholic Church, they undergo a marriage preparation course where they discuss personal ‘hot spot’ issues such as in-laws, careers and finances. In our case we also had a couple engagement session where we discussed our expectations and plans,” Art, who has been married to Rachel for 23 years, said.
“It is really between married couples on how they live their lives and no amount of government interference can dictate how couples run their relationships.”
For Rachel, it is not about who is keeping what.
“It is not a matter of turning over the ATM card to the wife. It is how the couple should respect the use of it. Being married involves trust, caring and loving for each other including managing how their money should be spent,” said Rachel, a veteran broadcast journalist.
“My husband’s ATM card is with him and I keep a record of his spending as well as mine to keep track of our finances and obligations. There are times he hands over his ATM card to me to purchase things we need at home or for myself.”
Melanie Robles, who works in the audio visual industry in Dubai, said she never keeps her husband’s ATM but he transfers his salary to her according to their agreed budget every month.
“It’s all based on the mutual understanding of the couple. What works for us may not work for you. So it’s a personal matter that does not need to be discussed publicly. If both agree on how to spend their money—it’s conjugal property—why will there be a problem?” the mother of two said.
For photographer Dennis Mallari, he does not agree that the spouse should keep the ATM card. But he said this law could well be to the advantage of many seafarers who don’t get to access their money, especially if the spouse who handles the account lacks financial discipline.
Financial Adviser Susan Francisco said with or without the bill, a couple must agree about how they spend their money. It will all depend on their faith and arrangement as a couple.
Some 94 per cent of couples with “great” marriages discuss their money dreams together, based on a 2017 study by Ramsey Solutions of 1,000 couples in the US.
Francisco said based on her interaction with her clients, those who pool their resources as one and spend as one are generally able to do better in life.
Her top three tips:
1. Budget together. Couples should do their budgets together so they know how much comes in, how much is saved and invested, and how much goes out.
2. Bank accounts can be joint. While the couple has separate current accounts, they can have one joint savings account so they can meet in the middle always.
3. Be transparent. Between the two of you, the one who is more financially disciplined should handle the finances. But both should have access to the account.