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‘Man-free’ Statement festival guilty of discrimination

Statement – a "safe space" for everyone but 'cis' men – discriminated against males by telling them they aren't welcome, Sweden's Equality Ombudsman has ruled

By Jon Chapple on 19 Dec 2018

Eurovision 2012 winner Loreen headlined Statement

image © Bengt Nyman

Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman has ruled that the recent Statement festival, held in Gothenberg on 31 August and 1 September 2018, violated both Swedish and European anti-discrimination legislation by claiming to bar “cis men” from attending.

According to the Diskrimineringsombudsmannen (DO) – which opened an investigation into the festival in July – Statement didn’t actually prevent cisgendered (cis) men, or those born male, from buying tickets or attending. However, media statements from organisers to that effect, as well as the event’s description as the “world’s first major music festival completely free from cis men”, constitute discrimination based on gender, the ombudsman ruled.

Under the Discrimination Act 2009, it is illegal in Sweden to discriminate against individuals based on their sex/gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age.

“According to the European Court of Justice, communications and public statements that clearly discourage persons from protected groups from taking part in an activity are to be considered discrimination,” reads a DO statement. “This applies even if there is no identifiable person who has suffered damage.

“Consequently, the DO’s conclusion is that the festival’s statements have violated the prohibition of discrimination based on gender.”

“Testival’s statements have violated the prohibition of discrimination based on gender”

Statement was conceived by Swedish comedienne Emma Knyckare as a “safe space” for female music fans, after several Swedish festivals were hit by reports of sexual assaults. (The most prominent, Bråvalla, was cancelled as a direct result, with promoter FKP Scorpio blaming “some men” who “cannot behave”.)

Knyckare raised 533,120 kr (US$60,395) on Kickstarter to fund the festival, whose line-up, which included Rebecca and Fiona, Loreen (pictured), Jenny Wilson, Gnucci, Cleo, Joy and Frida Hyvönen, was also “completely free from cis men”.

No action will be taken against organisers, though the festival remains under “supervision” by the DO.

Statement, meanwhile, is defiant in the face of the DO decision, saying it will continue “changing the world”.

“It’s sad that when 5,000 women, nonbinary people and transgender people experience a life-changing festival, a few cis men lose it completely,” it says in a Facebook statement. “The success of the Statement festival shows that is exactly what we need, and the DO’s verdict doesn’t change this fact.”


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