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Sweden’s ‘Man-Free’ Music Festival Found Guilty of Violating Discrimination Law

A Swedish “man-free” music festival aimed at women has been found guilty of violating discrimination laws.

Statement Festival—held in Gothenburg in August—claimed to be the world’s first major music festival for women, transgender, and non-binary people only. On Monday, however, Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman found that its description of the event as “man-free” was “an infringement of discrimination law.”

Although the ruling noted that festival organizers did not enforce the “man-free” rule—“no differentiation based on sex was made between visitors at entry”—the Ombudsman held that the statements the company issued publicly before the festival “discouraged a certain group from attending the event,” which ultimately amounted to a breach of a law banning gender-based discrimination.

“It is important to point out what an infringement is. These are the statements made before the festival, what they wrote on their website,” Clas Lundstedt, the Discrimination Ombudsman’s press officer, said in a statement. “Still, we haven't been able to prove that someone would have been discriminated against in connection with the implementation or that someone would have been rejected.”

Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare launched Statement Festival to provide a safe space for women following reports of sexual offences being committed at other music events, including Bravalla, the country’s largest music festival in 2017. Kynckare’s representatives did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.

“Clearly, we believe that sexual abuse, especially at festivals, is a serious problem. So we are looking forward to trying to correct this,” Lundstedt said, addressing the issue. “However, it shouldn't happen in a way that violates the law, which their statements in the media and their website do.”

GettyImages-1025561446 Women attend the Statement Festival at Bananpiren in Gothenburg, Sweden, on August 31, 2018. On Monday, the festival's "man-free" description was found to have amounted to "an infringement of discrimination law." Getty/Frida Winter

The organizers of Statement Festival responded to the ruling via Facebook. “It’s sad that 5,000 women, non-binaries and transgender experienced as a life-changing festival, made a few cis-men lose it completely,” they wrote. “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.”

In the planning stages of the festival, Knyckare told The Local that the festival “felt important” because “so many people wanted it." "All men are not rapists, but almost all rapes are carried out by men,” she added. “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."