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France 'to outlaw anorexic models'

Published 03/04/2015

A new bill in France forbids anyone with a body mass index below a certain level from earning money as a model
A new bill in France forbids anyone with a body mass index below a certain level from earning money as a model

Politicians in France have moved to make it a crime to use anorexic models or encourage anorexia in a crackdown on the glorification of dangerously thin women.

Other countries including Israel and Spain have taken similar action. The French measures would only apply within France, but could have symbolic impact beyond, because of its influence in setting style trends around the world.

"It's not just about protecting the models but also teenagers, because this body-image pressure also affects them and contributes to the emergence of eating disorders and tendencies to eat less and less," said Olivier Veran, a neurologist and legislator who championed the anorexia measure.

The lower house of Parliament adopted the amendment on models as part of a larger public health bill working its way through the legislature. The bill goes to a full vote next week, and then goes to the Senate.

The amendment forbids anyone with a body mass index below a certain level from earning money as a model. The level - based on height and weight - would be defined later by decree if the law is definitively passed.

Any modelling agency or person who pays a model below that index would face up to six months in prison and 75,000 euros (£55,000) in fines if convicted.

"The idea behind this law is not to send people to prison or fine them," said Mr Veran. "The law will be dissuasive enough to make sure that the health of people working in the modelling industry is protected."

The measure's defenders say they are targeting modelling agencies and protecting the models from pressure to lose weight.

The French Fashion Federation did not comment.

The World Health Organisation says that a body mass index of less than 18.5 is "underweight." Britain's National Health Service says adults with anorexia generally have a body mass index of less than 17.5. That would correspond to a woman who is about 5ft 7ins weighing 8 stone.

French lawmakers adopted a related amendment earlier this week targeting those who run pro-anorexia websites, and another that would require publications to publish a note telling readers when they have altered a picture to make a model look thinner - or less anorexic.

Similar anti-anorexia measures in 2008 failed to get final approval in the French legislature, and this effort has also met resistance, including from health professionals who fear it will further stigmatise anorexic youth and make it harder to diagnose and treat them.

Up to 40,000 people are estimated to have anorexia in France, 90% of whom are women, according to the health ministry.

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