The bill, which will be debated in parliament on Tuesday, also proposes banning websites and other forums that are viewed as promoting anorexia and other eating disorders.
“This is an important message to young women, young women who see these models as an aesthetic ideal,” Health Minister Marisol Touraine said, adding that the Socialist government is likely to back the bill.
“It’s important for fashion models to say that they need to eat well and take care of their health.”
If passed in parliament, the law would require models to undergo regular weight checks to ensure they are not underweight. Employers who breach the law would risk up to €75,000 in fines or a maximum of six months in prison.
Olivier Véran, the Socialist MP and neurologist who wrote the amendments into the bill, said that France – known for its haute couture industry – has huge problems with anorexia because of the distorted ideals that have been spread by the fashion world .
“Between 30,000 and 40,000 people” in France suffer from the eating disorder, he said, noting that the vast majority of them are teenagers.
“In France, (a Body Mass Index of) of below 18.5 is considered to be skinny. Guidelines drawn up by the WHO (the World Health Organization) however, say that anything below 18 is considered malnutrition. Below 17 is severe malnutrition and below 16 is considered starvation.”
“The social impact of this image, where women have to reach a pathological level of skinny to be (perceived as) beautiful and be allowed on the catwalk, is very powerful,” Véran said.
The second amendment involves the outright banning of so-called “pro-ana” forums; websites and other forums which promote eating disorders as a means of staying thin.
“These sites tell 12-13 year-old girls that they need to have a 15 centimetre ‘thigh gap’ to be beautiful,” he said, adding that he was inspired by similar legislation already in force in Belgium, Israel, Italy and Spain.
Israel has even imposed strict rules on the way publicity photos can be photo-shopped. Any changes to a model’s silhouette must be clearly marked on the photo.