The ‘man-free’ Statement Festival found to be guilty of discrimination

"It’s sad that what 5,000 women, non-binaries and transgender experienced as a life-changing festival, made a few cis-men lose it completely"

Sweden’s ‘man-free’ Statement Festival, designed as “the world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender only”, has been found guilty of discrimination.

The event came to be after it was announced that Swedish festival Bråvalla had been cancelled for 2018, following reports of four rapes and 23 sexual assaults on-site back in 2017.

“Certain men … apparently cannot behave,” said organisers when the festival was first conceived . “It’s a shame. We have therefore decided to cancel Bråvalla 2018.”

They later said: “What do you think about putting together a really cool festival where only non-men are welcome?”, adding that it would take place “until all men learn how to behave”.

“Since it seems to be OK to discriminate against women all the time, maybe it’s OK to shut out men for three days?” one organiser told Aftonbladet. “I would not exactly call it an abuse not to come to the festival.”

The crowd at Statement Festival Credit: FRIDA WINTER/AFP/Getty Images

The first Statement Festival was held in Gothenburg this August with an all female line-up. While there was nothing to prevent males from purchasing tickets, there were strongly advised not to attend. Any who did so were placed in a “men-pen” backstage.

Now, Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman has ruled that calling the festival a “male-free” environment was in violation of anti-discrimination laws.

“It is important to point out what an infringement is,” said DO Class Lundstedt said in a statement. “These are the statements made before the festival, what they wrote on their website. Still, we haven’t been able to prove that someone would have been discriminated against in connection with the implementation or that someone would have been rejected.”

Lundstedt added: “Clearly, we believe that sexual abuse, especially at festivals, is a serious problem. So we are looking forward to trying to correct this. However, it shouldn’t happen in a way that violates the law, which their statements in the media and their website do.”

Responding to the ruling on Facebook, Statement posted: “It’s sad that what 5,000 women, non-binaries and transgender experienced as a life-changing festival, made a few cis-men lose it completely. The success of the Statement festival shows that is exactly what we need, and the DO’s verdict doesn’t change this fact. Otherwise, we have no comments. We are busy changing the world.”

Statement Festival will not face any penalties following the ruling.

In 2016, five rapes and 12 cases of sexual assault were reported at Bråvalla. Acts including Mumford and Sons described the reports as “hideous” and condemned the festival.

“We’re appalled to hear what happened at the Bravalla Festival last weekend,” they said. “Festivals are a celebration of music and people, a place to let go and feel safe doing so. We’re gutted by these hideous reports. We won’t play at this festival again until we’ve had assurances from the police and organisers that they’re doing something to combat what appears to be a disgustingly high rate of reported sexual violence.”

Meanwhile, Zara Larsson tweeted “Damn you people who shamelessly rape a girl in public. Damn you guys who make a girl feel unsafe when they go to a festival. I hate guys. Hate hate hate.”

“How am I supposed to take it seriously when you say ‘not all men’, ‘I’m a nice guy, I don’t rape’? Where does all the ‘nice guys’ go when girls are raped? Are you too busy telling women how nice you are?”

Earlier this summer, it was found that 70 per cent of women are concerned about sexual assault at music festivals, and 69 per cent of women are concerned about sexual harassment. A further 10 per cent said that they had been sexually assaulted at a festival.

“These figures are shocking but not surprising as this is just more evidence that women fear for their safety at live music festivals,” said Mel Kelly of Safe Gigs for Women in a statement. “This fits anecdotally with what we hear every day. Hopefully organisers hear this and respond appropriately.”

For more information, visit Safe Gigs For Women here.