French lawmakers are voting on a bill that would make it a criminal offense to organize beauty pageants involving young girls, effectively bringing to an end the baby beauty pageant phenomena.
France’s Senate on Tuesday evening voted 196 to 146 to adopt a bill that is aimed at curbing the “hyper-sexualization” of young girls.
The bill would make it a criminal offense to, in effect, enter a child in or to stage a beauty pageant by making it unlawful to be party to the judging of a child under the age of 16 based on their physical appearance. In the most extreme cases, this could reportedly mean up to two years in prison and a possible 30,000 euros ($40,000) fine. The law would also apply to anyone “who encourages or tolerates children’s access to these competitions.”
This legislative attempt is the culmination of a controversy that crystallized in December 2010 when the French Vogue magazine ran a spread featuring then 10-year-old girl Thylane Loubry Blondeau and two other young girls clad in what by any standard would be considered provocative — if not aggressively sexualizing — attire.
As a result, lawmakers opted for a parliamentary inquiry. Now, a report entitled “Against hyper-sexualisation, a new fight for equality” has been released.
The report backs the legislation currently before French lawmakers but goes even further. It says that these so-called beauty pageants are just one facet of the sexualization of young girls and that other areas must be challenged too. Such attempts should include banning child-sized adult clothing, in particular padded bras and high-heeled shoes.
“Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is only judged by their appearance,” author of the report, former Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno is quoted as saying. “As parents and politicians, this is our responsibility.”
The report specifically details the harms it says can come as a result of this kind of overt sexualization, with an increase in the likelihood of mood disorders and eating disorders like anorexia all documented.
The report, far beyond the law currently being considered, also contends that advertisers should be banned from dressing underage models in adult clothing and that they should not be used as brand figureheads. It also calls for the return of school uniforms for primary age children.
Michel Le Parmentier, who is the organizer of France’s most prominent “Mini-Miss” pageants, is quoted as saying he is disappointed with the draft law and specifically that it contains an outright ban. He contends that tougher regulations to desexualize would be more appropriate.
Child pageants are not abundant in France, but since this controversy, some have already taken steps to tone down the competitions, for instance by banning make-up, swimsuits and anything else considered to be adult paraphernalia.
Other nations such as Belgium and the UK, while not approaching a legislative remedy, have commissioned reports into what appears to be a growing concern over the sexualization of young girls.
The French bill will now need the approval of France’s other legislative chamber, the National Assembly, before it can be made law. It does seem to have support enough to pass, however, with Minister Chantal Jouanno contending that this issue spans ideological lines and is not something that the presiding socialist party should subject to partisan politics.
Main image credit: Thinkstock. Vogue cover used under Fair Use terms, no infringement intended.
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