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French bid to ban child pageants

The French parliament has voted to ban beauty pageants for children under 16, in an effort to defend youngster's rights.

Anyone who enters a child into such a contest would face up to two years in prison and 30,000 euros in fines, according to the measure. The legislation must go to the lower house of parliament for further debate and another vote.

The Senate approved the measure 197-146, as part of a law on women's rights. The amendment says it is aimed at protecting children from danger and being prematurely forced into roles of seduction that harm their development.

Beauty pageants involving girls of all ages heavily made up and dressed up, regularly spark public debate in France.

"The foundations of equal rights are threatened by the hyper-sexualisation that touches children ... between six and 12 years old," said conservative MP Chantal Jouanno, who put forward the amendment.

"At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge. Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child."

She said it was primarily focused on protecting girls. "When I asked an organiser why there were no mini-boy contests, I heard him respond that boys would not lower themselves like that."

The amendment's language is brief but sweeping: "Organising beauty competitions for children under 16 is banned." It doesn't specify what kind of competitions would be covered, including whether it would extend to online photo competitions or pretty baby contests. It would apply to parents or others who enter children in such contests - but also anyone "who encourages or tolerates children's access to these competitions."

The amendment says it is aimed at protecting children from danger and being prematurely forced into roles of seduction that harm their development.

Michel Le Parmentier, organiser of "mini-Miss" pageants in France since 1989, said he was disappointed that the draft law involves an overall ban. He said that he has been in discussions with legislators but was not expecting such sweeping language.

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