After being originally passed by France’s National Assembly at the end of 2015, the law requiring models in France to provide medical certificates of health before being allowed to work has come into effect. The law was first proposed back in the spring of 2015 to combat the promotion of inaccessible ideals of beauty.
"Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour," said France's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine, in a statement on Friday.
Previous versions of the bill first suggested using a minimum Body Mass Index as a measurement for determining the health of the models. After vehement protests from modeling agencies and fashion executives, it was altered in favor of a doctor’s examination being the final say in whether a model is healthy enough to work. While a minimum BMI is not the deciding factor, doctors are urged to pay close attention to it with regard to the model’s age.
France is not the first country to introduce legislation of this kind. Similar laws are in effect in Italy, Spain, and Israel all of which require a minimum BMI.
According to World Health Organization guidelines, an adult with a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight, 18 malnourished, and 17 severely malnourished. The average model today has a BMI of 16.
Numerous studies in recent years have indicated that BMI is not as accurate at predicting health as was previously thought. It is not a reliable measurement for general health. Requiring a doctor’s examination to be the controlling factor in whether a model is deemed healthy enough to work could be more effective overall rather than taking a more prescriptive approach with a set BMI which ignores the individual.
Violations will be substantial. Employers found to be breaking the law by hiring models without a doctor’s note could face fines of up to $82,000 and up to six months in jail.
Also going into effect on October 1 of this year addresses the commercial use of photoshopping. Any photos used for commercial advertisements of models who have been digitally altered will have to include text that labels it a “retouched photograph.” This includes any altering whether it makes certain body parts appear smaller or larger. The fines for violation are very prohibitive starting at just over $40,000 to as high as 30% of the ad’s production budget.
Given Paris’ prominent role in the fashion industry, this step toward a healthier-looking catwalk could have a widespread impact on the industry as a whole.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
Read these stories next: