The city of Pamplona holds an annual giant festival celebrating San Fermin, the patron saint of the Navarre region, between July 6 and 14. During the nine-day-festival, thousands of tourists, from all over the world, come to Pamplona to attend religious processions, concerts and corridas. However, the festivities are also marked by systematic cases of violence against women. Last year, a group of festival-goers gang-raped a young woman, to the shock and horror of people across Spain. Local police also received about a dozen complaints of sexual violence.
Violence against women at the festival has become such a serious problem that, this year, the city increased its police presence and mounted new surveillance cameras. But that didn’t stop all violent and sexist behavior. Several women’s rights groups took to Twitter to share photos of men at the festival wearing T-shirts showing graphic images of oral sex as well as images of badges printed with misogynistic messages being sold on the street.
“Suck it and shut up,” "Either we all f*** or the bitch goes in the river,” “Your ass is mine,” or “For an idiot, you aren’t that pretty” are just a few of the messages printed on metal badges that were being sold at the festival. The origin of these badges still isn’t clear.
"These badges probably aren’t new”
What angers us is that, for the past year, the city has worked with women’s rights groups to run a huge campaign against sexism and violence, yet we are still seeing totally misogynistic T-shirts and badges. That underscores all of the work that still needs to be done in order for our society to understand how problematic these messages are.
We decided to take photos of these badges, which were being sold by vendors in Taconera Park and in several streets in the town centre, because we wanted to both spread the word on social media and, also, to report them to the authorities. These badges probably aren’t new. The only difference is that, this year, with all of the work done by City Hall and various associations in town to fight sexism, people have paid a lot more attention to this incident.
The red hand: a symbol for an assault-free festival
The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to an attendee at the festival who said that he hadn’t seen any of these misogynistic badges circulating. He actually said that he noticed a lot of badges and posters against violence against women.
“That said, the fact that there were so many messages against assault all over the city really made me think that there probably was a real problem during the festival,” he said. “For the locals, people who come to the festival with those kind of intentions aren’t at all in the spirit of the festival.”
Since 2014, the city of Pamplona has been working with several women’s rights organisations to put a stop to misogynistic behavior and sexual assaults.
For the third year in a row, the city has set up an information kiosk in the town centre with a large logo of a red hand, which has become the symbol for an assault-free festival. The city also set up surveillance cameras all across the city and deployed a large number of police officers.
“The citizen response to this issue shows that things are moving forward”
The city police started confiscating these badges inscribed with sexist messages. We also opened up an investigation into their origins and are currently verifying that there weren’t other points of sale in the city. [Editor’s note: The Pamplona city police reported on its website that police had seized 219 badges marked with sexist messages being sold on the street in the city]. What we’ve noticed is that many people condemned these badges and T-shirts on social media. We realised that most festival attendees won’t tolerate these sexist messages. The path to gender equality is long, but the citizen response to this issue shows that things are moving forward.”
A decrease in the number of complaints
In a press release published on Wednesday, July 12, the women’s rights group Comisión para la investigación de malos tratos a mujeres (Commission for the investigation of violence against women), announced that it had filed a complaint with the public prosecutor in Navarre to ask that an investigation be opened into these badges as a potential crime of inciting hate against women.
The Pamplona city police reported with pride on its website this year that there had been a 12% decrease (as compared to last year) in the number of complaints filed during the first five days of the festivities. According to the numbers from July 13, 2017, the local council for civil protection (part of city government) had received one complaint of “sexual assault” and “intimidation” and 11 for “sexual abuse” since the start of the festivities. For the time being, no cases of rape or attempted rape have been reported.