Statement Festival billed itself as the first music festival in the world exclusively for cisgender women, nonbinary and transgender people. Now the Swedish authorities have found that it is in breach of discrimination law for describing its own event as “man-free” (more specifically, free from cisgender men).
The music festival was launched by Swedish comedian and radio host Emma Knyckare following several reports of sexual assaults at other festivals, including one event that was cancelled entirely after multiple reports of attacks. Knyackare successfully crowdfunded 533,120SEK ($58,811) in just a few months to hold the inaugural Statement Festival in August. In addition to its policy on allowing only cis women, trans men and women, and nonbinary people to attend as visitors, it also hired only women, trans, and nonbinary performers, staff, and security to perform and work at the festival.
The Equality Ombudsman (DO), a government agency that oversees laws prohibiting discrimination, said in its ruling that Statement Festival’s description of itself as a “man-free” festival” was “an infringement of discrimination law.” The Local reports that the DO said the ban on cisgender men had not been enforced since “no differentiation based on sex was made between visitors at entry," but noted that "public statements which clearly discourage" a specific group from attending the event breached the law on gender-based discrimination.
The DO also said that its ruling should not be taken as “calling into question the serious problem of sexual assault". No penalties were imposed on Statement Festival.
In a Facebook statement translated by The Guardian, the festival wrote, “It’s sad that what 5,000 women, [non-binary people], and transgender [people] 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.”