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Making it illegal to promote extreme thinness - France takes the lead


Famous French artist Degas painted women in all of their wonderful variations

PARIS, France (AP) -- France's lower house of parliament adopted a groundbreaking bill Tuesday that would make it illegal for anyone -- including fashion magazines, advertisers and Web sites -- to incite extreme thinness.

French lawmakers have moved to pass legislation that will make it illegal to promote extreme thinness.

The bill goes to the Senate in coming weeks, after being approved in the National Assembly.

Fashion industry experts said that, if passed, the law would be the strongest of its kind anywhere. Leaders in the French couture industry are opposed to the idea of legal boundaries on beauty standards.

The bill was the latest and strongest of measures proposed after the 2006 anorexia-linked death of a Brazilian model prompted efforts throughout the international fashion industry to address the health repercussions of using ultra-thin models.

Doctors and psychologists treating patients with anorexia nervosa -- a disorder characterized by an abnormal fear of becoming overweight -- welcomed the government's efforts to fight self-inflicted starvation, but insisted that its link with media images remained hazy.

French lawmakers and fashion industry members signed a non-binding charter last week on promoting healthier body images. In 2007, Spain banned catwalks models whose body mass-to-height ratio was below 18.

However, conservative lawmaker Valerie Boyer, who authored the French bill, said such measures did not go far enough.

Her bill mainly focuses on so-called "pro-anorexic" Web sites that, for instance, give advice on how to eat an apple a day -- and nothing else.

But Boyer insisted in her speech to lawmakers that the legislation could shine a spotlight on some dubious facets of the fashion industry.

In a telephone interview, Boyer said the legislation, if passed, would enable a judge to sanction those responsible for a magazine photo of a model whose "thinness altered her health. That is the objective of this text," she said, without specifying who in particular might be prosecuted.

"We have noticed," she said, "that the socio-cultural and media environment seems to favor the emergence of troubled nutritional behavior, and that is why I think it necessary to act."

The bill would make it illegal to "provoke a person to seek excessive weight loss by encouraging prolonged nutritional deprivation that would have the effect of exposing them to risk of death or directly compromise health."

The bill would give judges the power to imprison offenders for up to two years and impose fines of up to $47,000. Punishment would increase to three years in prison and $71,000 in cases where a victim dies of an eating disorder.

Socialist lawmaker Catherine Coutelle said the bill was introduced to lawmakers too quickly -- less than two weeks ago, on April 3rd -- for thorough discussion before Tuesday's vote.

Opponents also said the bill was too vague in defining "extreme thinness" and describing who might be punished for promoting it.

French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said France could push for a similar, Europe-wide measure when it takes over the rotating EU presidency in July.

Boyer said she was focusing on women's health, though the bill applies to models of both sexes. Most of the 30,000 to 40,000 people with anorexia in France are women, according to the Health Ministry.

Didier Grumbach, president of the influential French Federation of Couture, strongly disapproved of legislating body weight.

"Never will we accept in our profession that a judge decides if a young girl is skinny or not skinny," he said. "That doesn't exist in the world, and it will certainly not exist in France."

Marleen S. Williams, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Utah who researches the media's effect on anorexic women, said it was nearly impossible to prove that the media causes eating disorders.

Williams said studies show fewer eating disorders in "cultures that value full-bodied women."

Yet with the new French legal initiative, she fears, "you're putting your finger in one hole in the dike, but there are other holes, and it's much more complex than that

source: CNN on 15-4-08

Reader Comments (15)

yes you are putting your finger in the dyke...

why do people never think about what they say before opening their mouth?

and then to top it off the article begins with a painting of a HEADLESS woman with the caption that claims this to be a wonderful variation of a woman. *geez*
April 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterirked
I don't understand - she has a head - is it unfeminist to have a woman looking down at her elbow - that seems a little bit extreme
May 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterk
This word "dike"- I do not think it means what you think it is meaning. =P
July 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEm
I think it's badly translated :)
February 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentera
Yeah, extreme thinness is reallly not a healthy concept especially for teenagers!
September 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjessie
It's a good answer for their activity, so they already know that they may not do it again in public. And it can teach other people.
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thinness is reallly not a healthy concept especially for teenagers!
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