Same-Sex Couple Shares Unpleasant Experience of Opening Account at Axis Bank
In September, Axis Bank had launched 'Come As You Are', an inclusive banking initiative for LGBTQIA+ customers.
On 6 September this year, India celebrated the third anniversary of the decriminalization of Section 377, a law that severely encroached upon the rights of LGBTQIA+ folk. On the same day, Axis Bank came up with a new campaign called 'Come As You Are', which allowed LGBTQIA+ employees and customers more benefits and ease in banking.
However, when one customer tried to avail this new scheme rolled out by the bank, she faced nothing but embarrassment and humiliation. Anisha Sharma, a woman from Mumbai, shared her experience on Twitter and spoke about how she had her partner, Bhakti, were shamed for trying to avail a scheme that the bank itself had introduced.
Sharma starts by talking about Axis Bank's campaign, which is referred to as a "charter of policies and practices for employees and customers from the LGBTQIA+ community." Under this charter, customers could open a joint savings bank account with their partners, along with other benefits. The bank also prided itself over being the first bank in India to do so for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Excited about an announcement like this, Sharma and her partner decided to open an account at the Seven Bungalows branch of Axis bank in Andheri.
They approached an employee and said they wanted to open an account. On doing so, they were directed to a table where two men were seated along with a woman. When they informed the staff members that they were partners and wanted to open an account, the staff immediately assumed they were business partners.
"One male officer asked what our relation was to each other. We informed them that we were partners. Immediately to this they said oh you want to open a current joint account, incorrectly assuming we were business partners. We clarified that we were same-sex partners, and told them about #DilSeOpen and #ComeAsYouAre," Anisha writes on Twitter.
Immediately, the male employee told her this was not possible to which Anisha and Bhakti responded by showing them a press release from their own website that talked about these campaigns.
"We couldn't open a savings account since to do so, we needed to have 'blood relation' or be family members. Everyone got awkward, Bhakti showed them a news article about this policy, and I showed them the press release on their own website," Anisha further explains.
Upon seeing these, the staff members, unaware of any such initiative within their own company, asked for a moment alone and took Bhakti's phone to consult the manager.
They were even asked to produce proof of the fact that they were a same-sex couple. She asked us if we had any proof to say that we were same sex partners. "Bhakti in turn asked her if she is asking us if we have a marriage document of some sort, the woman jumped to confirm, 'yes, yes.' We then informed her that same sex marriage is not recognised in India."
Even after all this, the manager returned only to inform Anisha and Bhakti that they would be allowed to open a current account as business partners, and nothing more.
"We showed him the Axis Bank website. He left to take a call and never came back," she wrote about her extremely unhelpful interaction with the manager.
Anisha wrote about the bank's negligence, "As a marginalised community this was becoming embarassing & humiliating.Thanks to the PR Blitz around this campaign, we walked into Axis Bank thinking it would be a safe space. We told them this was their policy, they needed to learn more about it & know how to talk to & treat us."
Anisha has also accused the bank of piggybacking on the decriminalization of Section 377, a significant moment in history for the LGBTQIA+ community, and using it for their negligent PR campaign. She was even gaslighted into an unreasonable explanation by one of the bank employees who tried to justify the bank's lack of accountability.
Check out the entire thread here:
She even mentioned Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist and the Diveristy, Equity, and Inclusion head at Axis in her tweets. "Our own community member @hiyer is helming this initiative. It was applauded all over social media and yet the reality is very different."
Harish Iyer has responded to this and showed solidarity with Anisha. He talked about how she and her partner shouldn't have faced what they did at Axis Bank.
"Thank you once again @motherofbillis for highlighting this. Equality us hard work, equity even more. To be real, I am certain there will be more missteps and more learnings. But we have embarked on this journey will not be scared of doing things because we could go wrong," he wrote while clarifying the situation. He has also mentioned that the employees involved would not be fired and that they are all trying to learn better. Here is his full statement.
Axis Bank has also responded to Anisha's tweet and apologised for the incident. "We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused and are open to help you! Please DM us your contact details and we will get back at the earliest," the statement reads. Here is the complete version:
While the bank might be apologetic, an incident such as this could have been avoided had the employees been trained properly about the campaign, as Anisha mentions in tweets.
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