Models in France can’t work without doctor’s note to say they’re healthy under new law

French parliament passes bill requiring models to have medical certificate proving they’re not too thin, and magazines must label Photoshopped images

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 12:46pm

Models working in France will need a medical certificate proving they are healthy and not dangerously thin under a new law approved by French MPs. Failure to provide a certificate will be punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of €70,000 (HK$600,000).

The bill also forces magazines to flag up photographs that have been “touched up” or Photoshopped.

The legislation is aimed at combating the growing problem of anorexia in models and rising numbers of young people with eating disorders. The measures were adopted last week as part of a new health bill.

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”.

French MPs rejected a clause in an earlier draft of the bill imposing a minimum BMI – measured according to height and weight – on those working in the fashion and advertising industry. Instead they agreed to let doctors make the call on whether a model is too thin, taking into account a range of criteria, including age, sex and body shape.

Published photographs of models that have been modified “in order to narrow or widen the silhouette” should be labelled as “photograph touched up”. Those who failed to comply could face a fine of up to 37,500 or 30 per cent of the value of the advert featuring the model.

An earlier version of the bill would have made it an offence punishable by up to a year’s imprisonment to encourage excessive thinness, a measure aimed at “pro-ana” websites that extol or promote anorexia or bulimia. That proposal, too, was excised from the text adopted by the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament.

Catherine Lemorton, president of the government’s social affairs committee, said many of those who ran such websites “suffered themselves with eating problems” and might be damaged further by the threat of prison.

When the law was first introduced to the house in April this year, Marie-Rose Moro, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, said the law would solve nothing. “It would be better to provide more resources to care for anorexic patients,” she said, adding that there should be “more awareness of eating disorders in society”.

Modelling agencies also attacked the law. “It’s very serious to conflate anorexia with the thinness of models and it ignores the fact that anorexia is a psychogenic illness,” Isabelle Saint-Felix, secretary general of Synam, which represents around 40 modelling agencies in France, said.

In France, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people – almost all of them adolescents – suffer from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder with a high mortality rate.