Parisian Women Can Legally Wear Pants After 213-Year-Old Law Declared Void

Women of Paris, it's now legal to wear an article of clothing you probably already wear pretty often.

That's right. Until last week, it was against the law for females in the City of Lights to wear pants. That's when Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France's minister for women's rights, made the law, which dates back to 1799, just after the French Revolution officially null and void, the Telegraph reported.

The original purpose of the law, first decreed by Paris' police chief, was to keep women from dressing like and thus being mistaken for male revolutionaries, the Raw Story reported. The law was amended a few times, including once in 1892, when an exception was added for women "holding the reins of a horse" and again in 1909 for women riding bicycles.

The repeal follows several failed attempts to strike the law from the books. When Green Party lawmakers tried to repeal it in 2010, officials at Paris police headquarters, where the original copy of the by-law is held, protested that repealing it would mean "removing a piece of judicial archaeology." (Note that no one was suggesting they burn the written statute). The police's other excuse for objecting to a repeal was that it was a "waste of time" -- no one pays attention to that dusty old thing, right?

A 2012 request by the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) finally resulted in Vallaud-Belkacem's action last week. The minister said that the bill belongs "in a museum," not current law.

France is not alone in having a law this outdated on the books -- the U.S. has hung on to many absurdly antiquated statutes that apply to women. It is against the law to adjust your stockings in public in Dennison, Texas and Bristol, Tennessee, for instance, and it's illegal to wear patent leather shoes in Cleveland, lest you give passing men a free up-skirt view.

Still, the fact that the Parisian law has hung around this long evokes France's not-exactly-progressive approach to women's rights. French women didn't get the vote until 1944, and the nation was ranked the worst country for women in Western Europe in a 2012 World Economic forum report.

In her statement last week, Vallaud-Belkacem seemed to address that imbalance: "This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men."

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