Women-Only Swedish Festival Responds to Being Called Discriminatory by Government

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Emma Knyckare, founder of the two-day Statement Festival, an all-female music festival at Bananpiren in Gothenburg, Sweden, poses on Sept. 1, 2018 at the festival grounds.

The Swedish government ruled Statement Festival breached gender discrimination laws, but imposed no penalties.

Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) has ruled that women-only event Statement Festival was in breach of the law that bans gender discrimination. According to The Guardian, the ruling stated that despite the fact that festival organizers did not enforce the “man-free” rule, their statements prior to the event discouraged a specific gender from attending which is in breach of the law.

“It is important to point out what an infringement is. These [infringements relate to] statements made before the festival, that 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,” said DO press officer Class Lundstedt.

The first-ever Statement Festival launched this summer in August in Gothenburg, Sweden and was billed as “the world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender only.” The women-only festival was put together in response to many women feeling harassed at music festivals.

In 2017, Swedish music festivals such as Bråvalla and Putte I Parken were laden with cases of sexual assault. Women at Bråvalla reported four rapes and 23 incidents of sexual assault at the 2017 event, which led to the cancellation of its 2018 iteration.

As a result, 22 individuals fronted by Swedish comedian and radio presenter, Emma Knyckare, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a music festival without men. The campaign reached its funding goal in just 31 days and organizers debuted the event this past August.

Following the DO ruling, Statement Festival took to Facebook to respond, stating “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.”

While the festival was found guilty of breaching the gender discrimination law, the DO also said that nobody suffered damages from the festivals restrictions and that no penalties would be imposed on Statement.

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

The investigation into the festival began in July and revealed that while the event was billed for women, non-binary individuals and transgender women, “no differentiation based on sex was made between visitors at entry.”

“People are tired of sexual assaults and many people seem to need a safe place where they can listen to music and drink beer for two days,” Knyckare told Amplify in October of 2017.

The comedian added: “Most men in Sweden understand why this is needed and want to support their daughters, wives, friends, and lovers. Statement is not a solution of the problem, it’s a reaction.”

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