France’s National Assembly voted yesterday to ban underweight models from catwalk, magazines and other fashion industry activities. Any woman that wants to be a fashion model in France will now need first to pass a medical exam that deems her healthy.
The piece of legislation has been in the works for several months now and is part of a more extensive health law. According to the new rules, French models need to show their employer a medical certificate that proves their BMI is within normal ranges and that there is no health condition that may prevent them from practicing the profession.
A previous law had also imposed a minimum BMI, but the recent rules are more detailed since they impose a BMI depending on the models’ age, weight, and body shape. French women have an average BMI of 23.2.
Moreover, the new rules impose harsher penalties for employers that break them. Fashion agents that fail to comply with the new regulations must pay a fine of $81,000 and spend some time in jail.
French lawmakers also decided to force fashion magazines, fashion retailers, and other players in the industry that use photographs of models to promote their products to mention that the images were altered through a computer software. Digitally altered commercial photographs will have to wear a tag such as ‘retouched photograph.’
But this latter measure is slated to take effect starting Jan. 1, 2017.
The Fashion industry in France, however, is puzzled by the new rules. Industry representatives complained that the new rules are too vague. According to a recent report, the new rules would be soon followed by ministerial guidelines with the specifics.
Models’ weight has stirred hot debates in Europe in recent years, as several of them literally starved themselves to death to meet the industry’s unrealistic standards. Additionally, many fashion models are affected by anorexia, a medical condition that can often result in death if patients do not get psychological help.
It is estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 French people (of which 90 percent are females) are affected by the condition. Anorexics often refuse to eat even if their life is in peril out of the irrational fear that they may look too fat.
In the U.K. there is an ongoing campaign against size zero models that was initiated by Katie Green, a contestant who had won a Wonderbra competition, but her agency declined to give her a contract unless she lost some weight. Back then, she was told that she was not meeting U.K.’s modelling standards of size eight even thought she is 5 ft 11 in tall.
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