Pamplona’s efforts to tackle the scourge of sexual assaults that has blighted its famous bull-running festival in recent years appear to be paying off, with this year’s celebrations showing a marked reduction in violent sexual attacks.
Two years ago, the mayor of the northern Spanish city admitted that sexual assaults had become “a black stain” on the festivities.
Last year’s event was marred by a notorious gang rape, an attempted rape and several allegations of sexual assault.
This year, according to the city council, police have investigated 11 cases of groping, one of them involving intimidation, but no cases of rape or attempted rape.
“Every day is a challenge, but things are going well,” said Aritz Romeo, city councillor for public safety. “We’re seeing fewer cases than in recent years and of a less serious nature.”
However, campaigners say that far more needs to be done to address the underlying sexism and misogyny evident on T-shirts and badges seen during the festival.
The LilithFeminista collective and others have been tweeting images of men wearing T-shirts depicting oral sex and drawn attention to the sale of offensive badges with slogans such as: “Shut up and suck”; “Go and get beer; you’re looking ugly again”; “For someone who’s dumb, you’re not very pretty” and “Being a virgin doesn’t make you a saint”.
Romeo said that 200 such badges had been confiscated from street sellers and that police were looking into whether their messages could be considered incitement to commit hate crimes.
He said that 3,500 police officers – including those specially trained in dealing with victims of sexual abuse – had been deployed, adding that a daily list of criminal offences was published to show that abusers would be arrested and punished.
“The most important thing is raising social awareness so that in the future these things don’t happen,” he said.
“Things have already got better because of the work we’ve done on this and they’ll get better over the next five or 10 years. Younger people are increasingly aware of these issues.”
The councillor said that people were beginning to understand that any assault needed to be reported.
“A few years back, if a woman was groped in a bar, it was sorted out in the bar and no one reported it. But now, people report it and the local police go in and arrest the attacker and he goes to trial and is sentenced.”
He added: “If you do it, you pay for it.”
While LilithFeminista acknowledged that the city council had run a “strong campaign”, it said the proliferation of sexist slogans revealed the true extent of the problem.
“What makes us furious is that a whole year can be spent on such a big campaign only for people to wander round wearing T-shirts or badges with messages that are totally sexist and derogatory towards women,” said the collective.
“It shows just how much work still needs to be done in society so that people understand the problem these messages represent.”
While it was all very well having thousands of police officers on patrol, the collective added: “We think the campaign would be more effective if the authorities knew how to identify all kinds of abuse – from the least to the most serious. The gropings and rapes are at the extreme end, but there are many other situations and acts going on that are neither reported nor controlled.”