World’s first festival ‘free from cis men’ found guilty of discrimination

Statement Festival in Sweden, which has been found guilty of discrimination

The world’s first major festival to be “free from cis men” has been found in breach of Sweden’s discrimination laws.

Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) ruled on Monday (December 17) that the Statement festival in Gothenburg breached its discrimination laws.

“It’s sad that what 5,000 women, non-binaries and transgender experienced as a life-changing festival made a few cis men hit the roof.”

However, the ombudsman said it would not issue any penalties because “no differentiation based on sex was made between visitors at entry” at the festival, which is only open to women, transgender and non-binary people.

The DO claimed that Statement Festival was in breach of discrimination legislation over comments made on its website promoting the event, which was first held at the end of August.

Statement Festival says ruling is “sad”

Organisers of Statement Festival—founded in response to a swathe of sexual assaults and rapes at music events in Sweden—criticised the ruling on Facebook.

“It’s sad that what 5,000 women, non-binaries and transgender experienced as a life-changing festival made a few cis men hit the roof,” they wrote in a statement.

“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, which was launched after a successful €50,000 crowdfunder campaign, is the brainchild of Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare.

She thought up the event after hearing about a swathe of sexual assaults and rapes reported in 2017 at Swedish music festivals, including Bråvalla Festival and We Are Sthlm.

As well as barring cis men from entry, the festival only included performances by women, transgender and non-binary artists.

Loreen performing at Statement Festival, which has been found in breach of Sweden's discrimination laws

Swedish singer Loreen performing at Statement music festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Julia Sixtensson)

Cisgender men who were part of the performers’ teams were required to stay in a cordoned-off area nicknamed the “manpen” backstage.

“The festival is the world’s first major music festival free from cis men—both among visitors and artists, and it is a statement against all the sexual assaults in our society,” reads the Statement festival website.

“We simply want that women, non-binaries and transgender to be able to visit an awesome festival and feel safe at the same time.”

Statement festival provides a safe environment for women, trans, and non-binary people

The event featured musical performances from former Eurovision Song Contest winner Loreen, Frida Hyvönen, Joy, Beatrice Eli, Maxida Märak and Tami T.

Comedians also played at the festival, including Nour El Refai, Petrina Solange, and Josefin Johansson.

“I thought it was sad that the media focus was on immigration or alcohol and not that it is cis men who account for 97 percent of all sexual violence,” Knyckare said on the festival’s website.

Statement is made up of around 30 people, who are all women, transgender, or non-binary.

A five-point mission statement is listed on the festival’s website.

These include creating a music festival “where non-cis men can feel safe,” and promoting “artists who are not cis-men.”

Other aims include highlighting a “work culture where non-cis men are those who work at all levels,” and instigating a “debate regarding the social norms that underlie sexual violence against non-cis-men.”

Knyckare initially proposed her idea for the event on Twitter, posting: “What do you think about doing an awesome festival where no men are welcome until ALL men have learned how to behave?”

After receiving a positive response, she started a crowdfunder in 2017 for the festival, which raised around €50,000 (£45,000) towards the event.

Organisers have a long-term goal of allowing cis men to attend the event.