France’s Senate voted early Wednesday to ban beauty pageants for children under 16, and to punish any adult who tries to enter a child into such a contest with up to two years in prison and a steep 30,000-euro fine.
The amendment is part of a broader bill on women’s rights, which will now proceed to the National Assembly, French Parliament’s lower house, for debate and another vote.
The senators who voted in favour of the measure argue that it will protect children from being prematurely “sexualised” through the use of heavy make-up and often provocative attire.
The amendment was prompted by a a parliamentary report entitled “Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight For Equality”, which, in addition to calling for an end to the pageants, encouraged a ban on adult-style clothing for children, including padded bras and high-heeled shoes.
“Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is based only on their appearance,” the author of the report, former sports minister and current senator Chantal Jouanno, said in an interview with free French daily “20 Minutes” last year.
Paris’s ‘Mini-Miss’ pageant…in Belgium?
Controversy surrounding the issue peaked in December 2010, when French Vogue published a photo spread featuring images of a 10-year-old French girl, Thylane Loubry Blondeau, decked out in a tight dress, jewellery, high heels and make-up.
The magazine argued that the photos were meant to capture a classic fantasy of young girls – to dress up like their mother.
But the images sparked outrage both at home and abroad.
If the bill is signed into law, as expected, pageants like the annual “Mini-Miss” contest in Paris will no longer take place.
The pageant’s creator, Michel Le Parmentier, has protested the amendment, saying that regulations, rather than an across-the-board ban, would be more appropriate.
Le Parmentier has said that if the law is passed, he might move his pageant to Belgium – but close to the French border, in order to accommodate French contestants who want to compete without having to worry about legal consequences.