WATCH: World’s First Man-Free Music Festival Kicks Off in Sweden

Sweden
FRIDA WINTER/AFP/Getty Images

The first-ever “cis man-free” music festival began in Sweden on Friday, following a wave of sexual assault incidents reported at events across the Scandinavian country in 2017.

Held in Sweden’s second-largest city of Gothenburg, the two-day Statement Festival forbids males from attending — with the exception of transgender women born as men. Plans for the festival were unveiled last year after law enforcement received four rape and 23 sexual assault reports at Sweden’s largest Bravalla Festival, prompting organizers to cancel this year’s event.

In a statement cancelling the event, Bravalla Festival spokesperson Kajsa Apelqvist, said: “It’s a very disappointing decision to take, but the overall picture we have is that we can not develop the festival in the way we want to be relevant to our visitors in the future.”

In response to the event’s cancellation, Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare conjured up the idea of launching a cis man-free music festival.

“What do you think about us creating an awesome festival where only non-men are welcome until ALL men learn how to behave?” tweeted Knyckare, who founded the Statement Festival, at the time.

Located inside an industrial building in Gothenburg’s harbor, only female bands are performing and neither male security guards nor journalists are allowed to enter.

Rebecka Ljung, a spokeswoman for the festival, says “thousands” of women were expected to attend the festival.

“This place feels like a safe-zone where women can just get together and have fun and celebrate … especially in light of the assaults that have happened at other festivals,” said Julia Skonneby, a 34-year-old performer.

“It feels like a certain tension is gone… we’re here to make a statement together,” Hanna Gustavsson, a 31-year-old designer, chimed in.

Statement, launched after raising more than 500,000 kronor (47,000 euros, $54,000 ) through crowdfunding, defines a transgender person as “a person who does not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth”.

After receiving several complaints, the Equality Ombudsman (DO), a government agency that promotes equal rights and handles discrimination complaints, has asked the festival to specify what it means by “cis men”.

“We want to examine whether the festival is compatible with discrimination laws,” the agency’s spokesman Clas Lundstedt told AFP, adding it would take a couple of weeks to reach a conclusion.

One festival-goer said she thought it was fair to bar men from the event: “I don’t believe in complete separatism but I think it’s very important to have this festival right now.”

According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, 4.1 percent of women reported that they had been the victim of a sexual crime, compared to 0.6 percent of men in Sweden.

In 2016, the Swedish press was accused of working with police to “cover up” sexual assaults committed by migrant youths against girls as young as 12-year-old at the Sthlm music festival.

 “These are so-called refugee youths, specifically from Afghanistan. Several of the gang were arrested for sexual molestation,” read a leaked police memo.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report. 

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