‘World’s first’ festival for women, trans and non-binary people set to return despite being ruled discriminatory against cis men

Swedish comedian and TV host Emma Knyckare, founder of Statement Festival.

Statement, billed as the “world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender people,” will return almost two years after it was labelled discriminatory for excluding cis men.

The two-day festival was formally condemned by the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman in 2018 because of its “man-free” ethos, but will return to Gothenburg on September 4-5.

“I want all women, non-binary and transgender people to experience this indescribable, magical and powerful atmosphere at some point in their lives,” Statement’s founder, radio host and comedian Emma Knyckare, told broadcaster SVT.

“That is the biggest reason why I want to do the festival again.”

Statement was created in response to a wave of sexual assaults at festival grounds reported in the summer of 2017.

Marketing materials warned that cis men were not welcome, and during the event itself men working as technicians, managers or for artist were cordoned off in a “man pen.”

All performers were either women or non-binary people.

Statement Festival ruled discriminatory.

The ombudsman found the festival in breach of anti-discrimination laws, but was unable to issue any sanction because in practice no men were physically blocked from buying a ticket or attending.

“We were condemned over the communication about the festival, not any actual discrimination in place,” Knyckare explained.

She added that while previously, the focus had been more about who was not allowed than who was allowed, organisers are taking a more positive approach this time.

“Now we are trying to communicate what the festival is for and why it is needed,” she said.

“We can’t forbid men to come, but now we inform more clearly when buying tickets that it is an arrangement for women and non-binary people, which I think most guys have accepted by now.”

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

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

Statement also seeks to highlight a “work culture where non-cis men are those who work at all levels,” and instigate a “debate regarding the social norms that underlie sexual violence against non-cis-men.”