A new law passed in France on Friday that bans excessively thin fashion models, and imposes fines and possible jail time on the agents and fashion houses who hire them.
The legislation, which was approved by French parliamentarians, states that agencies found employing models considered too thin could be fined up to 75,000 euros (approximately $83,000 USD) and face six months in prison.
"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,” the bill states.
France isn't the first country to closely monitor the modeling industry. Other European nations like Spain and Italy have taken measures to ensure that underweight models don't make it onto the catwalk. Back in March 2012, Israel instituted a law requiring models to produce a medical report no older than three months at every shoot for the Israeli market, stating that they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards (which states that a body mass index below 18.5 is considered malnourished).
Members of the fashion industry weighed in on the law and not everyone is content. Gérald Marie, chairman of Oui Management (a modeling agency) and former president of Elite Model Management Europe told the AFP that while legislation that reduces anorexia is a positive development, "we shouldn't mix things up." He continued, "There is anorexia and there are girls who are thin, very thin, naturally and you can make them eat all day and they would stay thin."
Meanwhile, Isabelle Saint-Felix, the head of France’s National Union of Modelling Agencies, or SYNAM, told the AFP: "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."
"It's important that the models are healthy," she said, "but it's a little simplistic to think there won't be any more anorexics if we get rid of very thin models."