France bans ultra thin models, sets strict penalties


The French parliament passed a law today banning the country’s prominent fashion houses from hiring models who cannot present medical proof that their BMIs are 18 or more. The bill was paired with another that cracks down on pro-anorexia websites.

“This is an important message to young women who see these models as an aesthetic example,” Health Minister Marisol Touraine previously said of the legislation.

A BMI of 18 translates to a 5’7″ person weighing at least 121 lbs. Prospective models must present doctor-issued papers proving they meet this standard. Fashion houses who disregard the new law may be penalized with fines up to $82,000 or six months in prison.

The legislation is inspired in part by late French model Isabelle Caro (pictured above) who took a stand against the fashion industry’s penchant for hiring ultra thin models in a shocking 2008 advertisement. Shortly before her 2010 death from anorexia, she told VH1’s Price of Beauty that a designer once told her to lose more weight, even though she was less than 90 lbs. at the time.

Although the new law is being applauded by many, some French health professionals have suggested it will only further stigmatize anorexia and make it more difficult to treat the disease. Speaking to AFP, the president of France’s National Union of Modelling Agencies also said it’s unfair to equate natural thinness and anorexia.

When you look at the criteria behind anorexia, you can’t look only at the body mass index when other criteria are also involved: psychological, a history of hair loss, dental problems,” Isabelle Saint-Felix said. “It’s important that the models are healthy, but it’s a little simplistic to think there won’t be any more anorexics if we get rid of very thin models.”

Similar rules are in effect in Spain, Italy and Israel.

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