Feminists protest running of the bull festival over sexual violence

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Emily Reynolds
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Animal rights groups have long protested the running of the bull festival in Pamplona – but now feminists are doing it, too.

The San Fermín running of the bull festival is famous across the world, with thousands of people taking to the streets of Pamplona to take part. 

But this year’s celebrations are being contested – namely, by a feminist group campaigning against sexual violence.

Earlier this year, five men were sentenced to nearly ten years in prison for sexually assaulting a young female attendee of the festival in 2016. There was outrage in June when the men – who referred to themselves as “the wolf pack” – were released on bail pending an appeal.

The decision prompted a hashtag, #cuéntalo – meaning “tell it” – that has been compared to the #MeToo movement.  

The BBC also reports that “a red glove – in the colour of the traditional San Fermín scarf – became a symbol of the protests”. 

Protesting women were urged this year to wear black with a purple scarf, rather than the traditional red and white, to the festival’s opening ceremony. 

Pamplona’s official website has attempted to make the festival seem safer for women.  “San Fermín is not at all a sexually permissive fiesta,” it wrote. “Everyone is respected just as they would be in any other quite different situation, and that applies both to men and women.”

And the city’s equality commissioner, Laura Berro, told the Associated Press that “very important, very deep changes” were taking place. 

“Until recently there was very backward thinking that justified men assaulting others under the effect of alcohol and in the party context,” she said. 

“People have been more aware for several years now, because we’ve given voice to feminist ideas, and gradually, there are very important, very deep changes taking place.”

Not all Spanish feminist groups agree with the protest. Spanish newspaper El Paìs report a “divide” in groups, with some rejecting the idea of a boycott.

One group from Pamplona itself said that protests had been made “without consensus, without any confirmation and without a clear goal”. 

“We are pioneers at advancing protocols against sexual aggression and we don’t understand the initiatives that emerge without consultation,” Koldobi Osta, president of the local association Peña La Única, told El Paìs

“Focusing on just one case makes the rest of the other assaults invisible, it undermines their importance and highlights elements that have little to do with reality,” they continued. “All assaults are important, all women who suffer or who have suffered from aggression need our solidarity, and no assault, be it of high or low intensity, can be justified.”

Images: Getty