Sweden ‘cis man-free’ electronic event, Statement Festival, found in violation of gender discrimination law
The first large-scale all-female festival, Sweden’s Statement Festival, has been found in violation of the country’s gender discrimination law. Marketed as a “cis man-free” affair, and notably, “the world’s first festival for women, non-binary and transgender only” attendees, Statement Festival exclusively employed women, transgender, and non-binary staff members, who filled a number of operational positions ranging from security personnel to catering. Developed in response to a string of sexual assault and harassment reports in Sweden in 2017, Statement strove to provide a “safe space” in the electronic event sphere for those who fear such unwanted sexual advances at a festival. The event held its inaugural iteration in Gothenburg, Sweden from August 31-September 1.
An investigation of Statement Festival determined that festival personnel strayed from its promise to refuse interested males entry to the festival grounds. Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman has ruled that Statement’s admittance of those interested, gender aside, still signifies a breach of Sweden’s gender discrimination law, because the festival actively “discouraged a certain group from attending the event.” The festival, however, will not be “penalized,” as the alleged “gender discrimination” only took a verbal form and was not behaviorally enforced through the denial of attendance to those who identify as male.
“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,” Statement said in a Facebook statement in response to the ruling. “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.”
Photo credit: Annika Berglund