Using a model who has a BMI under 18 could result in jail time.
According to Reuters, the French legislature voted for a bill Friday the declares: “The activity of model is banned for any person whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labor.”
Fashion agencies that are discovered using models with a BMI under 18, which is approximately 121 pounds for a 5 ft., 7 in. model, could face up to six months of jail time and a fine of 75,000 euros ($82,000).
The bill, which requires models to have a medical certificate vouching for what the government deems a healthy BMI, was paired with another recent bill that bans pro-anorexia websites that offer “thinspiration.” The legislation is an attempt to stop the idealization of the dangerously thin and, perhaps, curb anorexia.
The bill is the latest piece of an ongoing effort to try to stamp anorexia out of the fashion industry. In 2007, French fashion model Isabelle Caro posed for a shocking anti-anorexia campaign before succumbing to the disease, dying at 28.
But some are loudly protesting the legislation of “healthy” weight, noting that thinness does not always connote disease.
“When you look at the criteria behind anorexia, you can’t look only at the body mass index when other criteria are also involved: psychological, a history of hair loss, dental problems,” Isabelle Saint-Felix, the head of France’s National Union of Modeling Agencies, told AFP. “It’s important that the models are healthy, but it’s a little simplistic to think there won’t be any more anorexics if we get rid of very thin models.”
Model Lindsey Scott told Cosmopolitan that she was a healthy college athlete whose BMI was under 18 in college—she weighed 108 pounds at 5 ft., 8 in.—but she has also known people with disorders who may have a “so-called healthy” BMI.
“Perhaps they should have doctors check for signs of anorexia and bulimia instead of making assumptions based on weight,” she said. “Having a bunch of tall, thin, pretty, potentially healthy teenagers cram cupcakes for two weeks and fill themselves with fat injections until they’re runway-ready might sound like a great idea for a reality show, but really, is forcing some models into a thicker body type that may not be natural for them the best way to solve a health problem?”
But according to French health minister Marisol Touraine, “This is an important message to young women who see these models as an aesthetic example.”