From this week, all models working in France will require a certificate from a medical professional to prove they are in good health and not dangerously thin, following the approval of a new law by French MPs.
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Models will have to provide employers with a doctor’s certificate confirming that “the state of health of the model, assessed with regard to her body mass index (BMI), is compatible with the exercise of her profession,” reported the Guardian.
Failure to provide the doctor’s note will be punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of €75,000 (around £54,500).
The new health bill passed on Thursday, intended to curb anorexia in models and eating disorders in young people, also includes a requirement for French magazines to make it clear what images have been Photoshopped. Published pictures of models that have been modified “in order to narrow or widen the silhouette” must be labelled as “photograph touched up” — and those who don’t comply with this could face a fine of up to €37,500 or 30 percent of the value of the advert featuring the model.
However French MPs decided not to impose a minimum BMI on those working in the fashion industry — which was included in an earlier draft of the bill — opting instead to let doctors decide whether an individual model is too thin.
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“Images of the body idolizing excessive thinness or wasting, and stigmatizing curves, undeniably contribute to unhappiness — especially among many young girls,” said the bill.
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.
While some people have criticised the bill — “It’s very serious to conflate anorexia with the thinness of models and it ignores the fact that anorexia is a psychogenic illness,” said Isabelle Saint-Felix, secretary general of Synam, which represents around 40 modelling agencies in France — there’s no doubt that France is ahead of the pack when it comes to tackling the complex issue of underweight models. Unrealistic beauty standards exist all over the world, and it’s time more countries followed the example set by the French government.
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