France has joined Israel, Spain, and Italy in the move to ban underweight models from the catwalk. The bill was voted on and passed by French legislation and said, “The activity of model is banned for any person whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labor.” Also, any photos of models that have been retouched or photoshopped, must have a label or tag stating so.
At the root of it, the bill says that any model with a BMI below 18 (about 121 pounds for women 5' 7'') does not qualify for the job. Fashion agencies that are found hiring models with such health concerns will be subject to a fine of 75,000 euros and jail time of up to 6 months. Models must also now carry medical certificates stating their BMI’s in order to get hired.
The bill is also clamping down on "thinspiration" websites that "seek excessive thinness by encouraging eating restrictions for a prolonged period of time, resulting in risk of mortality or damage to health." These will also be fined at a higher stake of 100,000 euros and a year of jail time. As of now an estimated 30,000-40,000 people in France (mostly teens) suffer from anorexia, say health experts.
Unfortunately, while this bill may have good intentions it doesn’t fully take into account the women who are skinny through no fault of anorexia. Isabelle Saint-Felix, the head of France's National Union of Modeling Agencies, said: "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."
There are claims that this bill unjustly discriminates models who are naturally thin and makes the correlation that too thin bodies are automatically a sign of anorexia. Saint-Felix questions if it’s a good idea to get models into a body shape that maybe isn’t their natural one whilst supporters of the bill like French health minister, Marisol Touraine, thinks this will help young women who often view these models as "an aesthetic example."
Image via modelsblog.info