THE week of the bull running in Pamplona started with a demonstration by 75 young men and topless women all wearing just pants and fake bull horns and covered in fake blood as a protest against cruelty to bulls and has ended with numerous injured and allegations of five violent sexual attacks including a rape and 11 claims of sexual assault.
It seems that young men, certainly fuelled on alcohol, some on drugs and many ramped up on pure adrenalin and machismo have taken it upon themselves to consider the body of any young woman as open invitation to transgress by touching them intimately.
Unlike Mardi Gras in New Orleans were women parade topless and kiss men to obtain beads in a general atmosphere of sexual frisson, the feast of San Fermin is quite different and has become an increasing nightmare for innocent women living and working in Pamplona since the brutal murder of a young nurse during the festival eight years ago.
Now, banners appear in the streets saying No sexual harassment!”; “Assault is not flirting. Be careful!”; “No sexist assaults”; “Enjoy yourselves and let others enjoy themselves” and the city council says that it is doing all it can to stamp out sexual assaults on women by increasing the number of cctvs in operation and policing the streets.
With such large crowds and a finite number of police officers (said to be 3,400) plus the fact that there are things going on almost 24 hours a day, it is almost impossible to guarantee the safety of women in Pamplona and sadly they have to be very careful and effectively provide their own protection during the week.
According to The Guardian Aritz Romeo, city councillor for public safety and women’s groups in Pamplona are doing all that they can to prevent assaults and he is quoted as saying “I think the reasons are basically cultural; they’re rooted in the false belief that men are superior to women and that women are there to satisfy them. It’s a sexist and patriarchal culture. We in the council are not in favour of that culture and that’s why we believe that while the police response is important, so is raising awareness to prevent it. Inequality between people is at the root of it all.”
He also told the newspaper “If you break the law in Pamplona, you will pay for it. We’re working to tell people that if you touch a woman’s backside, you’ll wind up in a police cell.”
Despite this rhetoric, 2016 seems to have seen a terrible backwards step as far as violence to women is concerned. Much has been made of the ‘alien hoards’ from the Arab States who attacked women across Germany on New Year’s Eve but the whole of Europe in particular is beginning to see an outbreak of violence against women, both random and in the home which had seemed to be dying out.
Pamplona isn’t by any means the worst culprit but might just be an example of how society is moving the wrong way and in this particular case by starting with a number of topless girls and good looking lads to attract attention for what many consider to be a worthy cause, has perhaps actually delivered the wrong message to those travelling to Pamplona from all over the world.
This of course also raises once again the matter of whether bulls should be treated in such a way and whether a civilised society should allow often drunken idiots to take their lives in their own hands by running in front or over excited agents of death and of course this year has seen more deaths around the different bull running towns as well as the death of a young bull fighter.
If innocent women can be protected from assault then perhaps this is the most telling argument for banning the bull running regardless of the number of people who want to join in or the financial benefits it brings to the city.