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Swedish “man free” festival ruled discriminatory; fest organizers fire back

Statement Festival
photo via Statement Festival Facebook

This past summer, the Statement Festival went down in Gothenburg, Sweden with Girlschool, ionnalee/iamamiwhoami, and more, and it was billed as “the world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender only.” The festival’s mission statement was as follows:

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.

Don’t miss this historic event where we make a statement against sexual abuse and harassment while enjoying music, stand up, djs, art and atmosphere in world class!

The festival was met with some criticism, and its founder, comedian and radio host Emma Knyckare, defended the idea, saying: “All men are not rapists, but almost all rapes are carried out by men. We want to create a free space, a cool festival where women can be without feeling worried. A festival is not the solution, but a reaction to the problem. The goal with the festival is that there shouldn’t need to be separatist events.”

Now, Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) has ruled the festival “discriminatory,” and said it amounted to “an infringement of discrimination law.” Via The Local:

The DO said that no individuals had been discriminated against, and noted that the festival had not in practice enforced the ban on cisgender men (those who identify with the male gender assigned at birth).

“No differentiation based on sex was made between visitors at entry,” the ruling said. However, it added that “public statements which clearly discourage” a certain group from attending an event amounts to discrimination, and therefore the festival was in breach of the law prohibiting gender-based discrimination.

Statement Festival posted a response to the ruling on Facebook, which reads (translated via Sputnik News):

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.

Watch a recap video of the festival:

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