Sweden thought it had found the perfect solution to the harassment and abuse many women and LGBTQ people suffer at music festivals by announcing a two-day “cis-male-free” festival. However, it appears the country’s discrimination laws had other ideas.
Statement Festival, which took place in August in Gothenburg, was supposed to be a “safe space” for people who usually have to worry about cis-males taking advantage of them. But as reported by Unilad, Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) found them guilty the violation of anti-discrimination legislation.
On the festival’s website is a statement about what they were trying to achieve by banning cis-men from both the audience and the show’s lineup.
“At music festivals everyone should feel safe. This sounds obvious, right? But year after year, the abuse at music festivals has shown the opposite. At Statement Festival safety is a given and we are now organizing a music festival completely free from cis men, in both the audience and on the line up.”
While many felt it was a step forward in helping to make women feel safe, the DO felt quite differently about the festival’s banishment of men. In his ruling, he made an official statement explaining his decision.
“It was a violation of the prohibition of discrimination when the website of the music festival Statement and in statements from representatives of the festival revealed that cis-men would not be allowed to enter the festival.”
Men were able to buy tickets to the festival but they, along with all male staff at the event, were confined to a “man-pen” backstage where they would be unable to interact with the women in attendance.
Despite his ruling, the ombudsman also found that no one had been harmed or individually discriminated against by the festival’s policy.
“On the other hand, the investigation does not support any person being discriminated against in connection with the festival’s implementation,” he concluded.
The idea from the festival was born from comedian Emma Knyckare, who was troubled after hearing of numerous instances of sexual assault at Sweden’s biggest music festival, Bravalla, in June of 2017. Reports suggest there were four rapes and 23 sexual assaults at the festival, and Knyckare decided to create a festival where women and gender-non-conforming people wouldn’t have to worry about such happenings.
Following the ombudsman’s decision, next year’s festival has already been canceled, and organizers have responded to the ruling.
“The success of the statement festival shows that we are needed and the decision does not change that fact. Otherwise, we have no comments – we are busy changing the world.”