New French Law Bans Models With Eating Disorders – Helpful Or Harmful?


A new French law is set to change the way the fashion industry operates and also how the standards of beauty are portrayed in one of the fashion capitals of the world.

Socialist lawmaker and doctor, Olivier Veran had been campaigning to add language to an existing health bill which was voted in by French Parliament on Friday, April 3rd. He wanted to ban models with eating disorders from advertising campaigns in order to uphold a healthy body ideal.

The amendment to the bill means that modeling agencies would have to produce medical reports showing the models have a healthy BMI. The law doesn’t just target modeling agencies and designers, it also cracks down on websites which promote eating disorders and harmful body standards, issuing them with a €10,000 fine. Agencies can now be liable for fines of up to €75,000 and staff could face six months in jail for breaching the law.

France is not the first nation to create such controversial legislation. Brazil, Italy and Israel have cracked down on websites and areas of the fashion industry that have for far too long perpetuated unhealthy standards of beauty in young girls, and been accused of being responsible for creating eating disorders in many.

In 2012 Vogue magazine played their part in trying to uphold healthy standards of beauty by placing a ban on underage models in editorial content from all their worldwide editions.


It may seem drastic, but the death of French model Isabelle Caro in 2010 has been cited a prime example of why something needs to be done. Before she died Isabelle was part of a campaign drawing attention to the dangers of anorexia. Sadly, it was too late for her, the damage had been done and she lost her lift to a disease that could’ve been prevented had she had the right care.

In 2006 three models made headlines that shocked the world. Ana Carolina Reston, 21, from Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos, 22, and her sister Eliana Ramos, 18, all died from anorexia.

These may only be examples that are few and far between (that we know of publicly), but how many deaths will it take for the fashion and advertising industries to realize girls dying for a chance at fashion fame is just NOT right?!

“We want to combat the idea that an agency could urge a model to stop eating; for example eating cotton balls to lose their appetite, to always lose more weight,” Olivier Veran told CNN.

“We have had chief editors of prestigious magazines tell us that more and more often, they are obliged to use Photoshop, not to make the models look slimmer, but to erase the tracks of bones under the skin, to make them look bigger.”

In his mind it just makes sense that banning the models who are unhealthy in the first place will possibly eliminate the need for excessive photoshop, which is a whole other debate about unrealistic and unhealthy body standards.


CNN reports that the average BMI for a woman in France is 23.2 — the lowest average in Western Europe, according to a 2009 study from France’s National Institute of Demographic Studies. In France, Veran said, 30,000-40,000 people suffer from eating disorders, mainly teenagers.

“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,” the legislation says.

Olivier is confident that by the end of 2015 “we will no longer have anorexic models on the catwalk.”

The second part of the law doesn’t just target models on the runway, but also aims to take down pro-anorexia websites.

While it is promising to see lawmakers understand how serious this issue is, there are others who criticize strict legislation like this.

In response to the Israeli law banning underweight models, one agency head said the law could end a model’s career prospects and discriminates against girls who are genetically thin.

In regard to this new French health bill, Australian Senator Michaelia Cash, who is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, doesn’t believe it will achieve the desired outcome. In an interview with Australian media discussing the bill, Michaelia Cash said Australia won’t be adopting a law like this anytime soon, but added that the change needs to happen culturally, and laws cannot always do that effectively.


She has a point, the culture DOES need to change, but the fashion industry shouldn’t be the only one to shoulder that burden. In our opinion it needs to be changed from all fronts. If those in the fashion industry and advertising world know they will incur fines and penalties, they may be deterred from using underweight and unhealthy models in the first place. If that becomes a trend, perhaps audiences will start seeing a change in magazines and on the catwalk and subconsciously seeing a new “standard” of beauty over time.

“The prevalence of wafer-thin models being presented as the norm is not desirable. That said, legislating against the use of models below a certain weight will not achieve the necessary cultural change that is required,” Michaelia Cash told Fairfax Media.

“Such change will only be attained by the industry taking responsibility for the images it chooses to publish and the subsequent messages these images send to their readers.”

The “Paris thin” standard for models is not secret amongst the fashion elite and if the French Government, headed by president Francois Hollande and his Socialist party who unanimously passed the law through the lower house of Parliament despite opposition from Conservatives, wants to ensure this changes by implementing laws that will hopefully protect young men and women, then we’re all for that.

Eating disorders are no joke, and they are very complex diseases. There is an unfortunate lack of education surrounding the prevention and treatment of certain eating disorders, which means the more information about their effect that exists in the public, the better.




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