French Law Will Require Models To Get Their Weight Certified By A Health Professional

French Runway Model
French legislators enacted a bill that would require thin models to receive a certificate of health from a medical professional. Getty Images

The French National Assembly passed a bill on Thursday requiring all of the country’s thin models to provide a doctor’s note confirming they are a healthy weight. The law is the latest effort by lawmakers to discourage unhealthy, restrictive eating habits.

The new law replaces a previous one that required models’ body mass index (BMI) to be no lower than 18, a measure considered underweight by half a point. Models and agencies alike argued BMI wasn’t the most accurate way to determine the health of a person (they aren’t wrong). The new law, passed by the French High Health Authority’s ministers of health and labor, will require a written note from a doctor who’s accounted for the model’s weight, gender, and body shape. Failing to meet these requirements could result in fines up to $82,000 and six months in jail.

Aside from a doctor’s note, digitally altered images will also be required to label photoshopped images with verbiage that connotes the image has been altered. Advertising agencies that fail to comply will face a fine of $40,000, or up to 30 percent of their advertising expenditures.  

Lawmakers hope the new law will be a preventive measure against stereotypes that contribute to eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia. According to a 2008 study, between 30,000 and 40,000 girls aged 18 are affected by anorexia throughout the country, the bill said. Moreover, about 20 percent of girls fast or adopt food restrictions at some point in their lives.

Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia pose a number of health risks, such as anemia, bone loss, absence of periods, and kidney problems. Tackling how children grow up to view models in magazines, advertisements, and television could reduce the number of them who go on to develop body dissatisfaction and eventually these conditions. After all, these are unrealistic images; in France, the average woman’s BMI is actually 23.2.  

France is not the first country to adopt such a law. In 2012, Israel adopted “the Photoshop Law,” which requires images of models photoshopped to make them look thinner to have a note saying so. Under this law, fashion models are required to have a BMI of over 18.5 (considered normal weight). Photographer Adi Barkan was among those pushing for the law to be passed after he watched his friend, a model, die from being underweight in 2007 — she was only 60 pounds.

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