Mark Vernon and Carolina Perry are the owners of Elements bar. / sur

If a woman orders a certain 'drink' in a Fuengirola bar she's alerting staff that she needs help

The seafront establishment on the Costa del Sol has launched a scheme whereby women who feel harassed or in an unsafe situation can alert staff with a code word

ÁLVARO FRÍAS / JUAN CANO

At Elements Bar in Carvajal, on the Fuengirola seafront, the owners and staff are fighting gender violence. They want every woman in their bar to feel safe and, if anyone feels harassed or in danger, all they have to do is order a particular drink: a ‘diana doble’. That is the call for help.

The owners of the bar are Carolina Perry and Mark Vernon, who met in London and arrived on the Costa del Sol 20 years ago.

It isn’t an everyday sort of bar. No reggaeton is blaring from the speakers. Instead, alternative music provides the ambience for their clients, who are largely local. Tarantino classics are screened on the walls, and there are posters of different artists.

“When we came to Fuengirola we decided to do something different. For example, we were the first to put a sofa in the bar. It is a relaxed place to be,” says Carolina.

Are you having trouble?

There is a sign in the ladies’ lavatory. ‘Are you uncomfortable? Feeling harassed or in danger? Is your date not going as planned?’ are the questions that attract their attention. If the answer is yes, the next step is to ask a member of staff for a diana doble.

In fact, they can ask for a specific type of assistance. A ‘diana doble solo’ means the woman needs someone to escort her to her car so she can get away safely. If she asks for a ‘diana doble para llevar’, she needs a taxi straight away; and if she orders a ‘diana doble azul’, the police need to be called.

However, the sign has had to be replaced four or five times. Sometimes the staff have found it in shreds on the floor, and at other times it has simply disappeared. “I can’t think what goes through people’s heads to make them do that. We have made it more difficult now; we have framed the sign and screwed it to the wall,” Carolina said.

Although they started this scheme three years ago, nobody has ever ordered a ‘diana doble’. “All the staff are really aware of this type of situation and if we see anything strange, we immediately do something,” she says.

Their initiative is well-known now, because a client posted a photo on Twitter, saying it was a fantastic idea. It received over 1,000 comments, was retweeted 21,000 times and 82,000 people indicated that they ‘liked’ it.

However, it is not new. In fact, it began in the UK with the #NoMore campaign, with signs asking any woman who felt unsafe to go to the bar and ask for Angela. Whatever the key word is, if it helps any woman to escape from a situation which risks her safety, it is an important step to stopping gender violence.