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Spain's bull festival seeks to trample sex crimes

Martin Roberts

Spain's San Fermin festival is well known for its annual crop of gorings during the bull-running, but sex crimes are a less-publicised problem.

Spain’s San Fermin festival is well known for its annual crop of gorings during the traditional bull-running, but sex crimes are a less-publicised problem that local authorities would really like to stamp out.

The Andrea (“Woman” in the Basque language) women’s group in the northern city Pamplona said there were five rape cases during last year’s week-long festival, although they estimated that many more were not reported.

“The victims feel ashamed, and then they have to face questions like what were you doing there, at that time, with that guy, you were asking for it, and so on,” said Teresa Saez, president of Andrea.

The festival, which brings thousands of people to town for the running, bullfights, drinking and carousing, also brings with it a cacophony of noise, fights, vagrancy and plenty of dangers that haven’t anything to do with rampaging bulls.

“We are up against a macho culture, which sees women as objects, so we have to keep working on education,” said Saez, who also works as a local government equality officer.

The Spanish authorities and media assign a high priority to exposing and clamping down on gender violence.

Artists also work to raise awareness and Spain’s cinema industry has awarded its top Goya prize for best picture to Te doy los ojos (I give you my eyes), a film about domestic violence against women directed by Iciar Bollain.

The Diario de Noticias daily in Pamplona said in a Friday editorial that Spanish authorities have already been unable to prevent the killing of 31 women across Spain by their partners or spouses in the first half of 2011 alone.

No still means no
Andrea have launched a campaign with local authorities to raise awareness about sex crimes during the festival.

“This is about understanding that ‘No’ exists and that women have the same right to the street as other areas, without their safety and other rights being violated,” Andrea said in a statement.

The regional government in Navarra—of which Pamplona is capital—has launched a campaign for equality during the festival, with special emphasis on preventing sex crimes by printing posters with the slogan “No still means no.”

Non-governmental organisations and officials stress that they also want men and women to share the housework so all can come out to enjoy the festival.

Officials have also campaigned hard in recent years to overcome fierce male opposition to women running with the bulls, but female runners are still barely visible today.

Nobel prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway made the San Fermin festival famous around the world with The Sun Also Rises, a novel based on his first visit to Pamplona in 1923.

The festivities range from saints’ processions to folk-dancing and concerts, but most of the attention goes to revellers who run with six bulls every morning as they are goaded through Pamplona’s medieval streets to the bullring.

The Navarra Red Cross reported two gorings on Friday, one of them sustained by a young man who tried to dodge a half-tonne bull after it had entered the bullring. - Reuters

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