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Four reports of rape during five days of Sanfermines fiestas

Local authorities say police are dealing with sexual assaults, while women’s groups hold second protest demonstration

San Fermín 2016
Demonstration in response to the rape of a young woman on the first night of Sanfermines. EFE

Four rapes have been reported so far during the five days of the Sanfermines fiestas in Pamplona, along with an attempted rape and seven sexual assaults. Some 12 people have been detained, with seven being held in jail.

According to Aritz Romeo, Pamplona’s public safety councilor, Pamplona City Hall and women’s groups have succeeded in raising awareness and encouraging women to report sexual harassment and assault. “I don’t think that anything different is happening in Pamplona that isn’t happening in other cities where there are fiestas, we have just taken measures to deal with it and there are 3,400 efficient police officers to catch wrongdoers,” he said. In 2015, there were four reports of sexual assault.

On Monday night, one of the sites of an alleged rape – Plaza del Castillo – was packed with people protesting the sexist attacks. Organized by feminist groups, the demonstration was unanimously supported by local and regional authorities.

Since 2008, women’s groups have campaigned to raise awareness of the dangers of sexual assault during the fiestas, as well as demanding a zero-tolerance attitude to sexual harassment of any kind

Meanwhile, Spanish police are investigating a report by a 22-year-old French woman that she was raped on Saturday night in Pamplona during the fiestas. The woman was assisted by a number of people who accompanied her to one of the information points set up throughout the city to report sexual assaults. She was able to supply a description of the man, who is now being sought by police.

Local officers have arrested three other men in relation to other sexual assaults during this year’s Running of the Bulls celebrations. A fourth man has been detained after he injured a woman.

Seven cases of sexual abuse have been reported so far, besides four rapes and one attempted rape.

In one of the reported cases, five men were arrested for their involvement in the rape – which one of them filmed – of a 19-year-old woman on Thursday evening, the first day of the internationally famous festival in northern Spain. One of the men, all in their 20s and from Seville, is a recent graduate of the Civil Guard law enforcement agency who has since been suspended from duty.

There has been increased media coverage in recent years of sexual assaults against women during the fiesta, prompting Pamplona City Hall to take measures. On July 7, a huge demonstration was held in central Pamplona attended by tens of thousands of people to protest what a judge recently described as “collective rape.”

On July 7, a huge demonstration was held in central Pamplona attended by tens of thousands of people calling for an end to sexual attacks against women

Local police issued a statement on Sunday thanking people attending the fiestas for helping to prevent sexual assaults or coming to the aid of women who have been attacked.

Pamplona City Hall has issued a statement calling for “Fiestas free of sexual aggression,” encouraging people to be “active in stopping any kind of attack against women, to help and to support women who have been attacked and to isolate the aggressor.”

The mayor of Pamplona, Joseba Asiron, has issued a statement saying that any such attacks will be “pursued and punished.”

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“The image of a young woman with her naked torso being fondled by a bunch of guys cannot be how Sanfermines is seen around the world,” said Aritz Romeo.

Dozens of CCTV cameras have been installed in Pamplona city center, and have already helped to identify the five men now being held over the rape of the 19-year-old woman.

Pamplona only began taking the issue of sexual assault and harassment seriously in the wake of the 2008 murder of a young nurse named Nagore Lafagge. City Hall was represented in court during the trial, which led to a 12-year sentence for her murderer. Since then, women’s groups have campaigned to raise awareness of the dangers of sexual assault during the fiestas, as well as demanding a zero-tolerance attitude to sexual harassment of any kind. In 2014, with the support of City Hall, a working group called Sanfermines en Igualdad (Equality at Sanfermines) was set up.

Pilar Mayo, Pamplona City Hall’s equality councilor, says that the mix of alcohol, drugs and the permissive atmosphere associated with Sanfermines is behind the sexist behavior displayed by some men attending the event. “Something makes them think that the festivities include women’s bodies,” she says. Last year, for the first time, the authorities set up an information and advice center in the city’s main square. Last year, some 5,000 people requested information.

The working group has prepared a survey of the most dangerous areas of Pamplona for women, as well as talking to participants in the fiesta about their experiences.

Some 3,500 police officers from different forces have been drafted in for the week-long festivities, which see up to a million people descend on Pamplona.

As part of the effort to crack down on sexual harassment, undercover officers are also patrolling the narrow lanes and alleys of the city, in constant radio contact with officers monitoring CCTV cameras.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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