The French Senate voted last week to ban beauty pageants for children under 16 and punish any adults who try to enter children in such contests with up to two years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine, according to France 24. The amendment is part of a bill on women’s rights, which now heads to France’s lower house for another vote.
The amendment’s supporters argued that the ban would protect young girls from being “sexualized” in the pageants, which often feature heavy make-up and sometimes provocative attire. A parliamentary report titled “Against Hyper-Sexualization: A New Fight for Equality” prompted the legislation. The report, in addition to suggesting the ban, also encouraged a ban on adult-style clothing for children, including high-heeled shoes.
“Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is based only on their appearance,” the author of the report, former sports minister and current Sen. Chantal Jouanno told the free French daily 20 Minutes last year.
Discussion about the issue hit its peak in December 2010 when French Vogue published a cover featuring 10 year old Thylane Loubry Blondeau wearing a tight dress, jewelry, high heels, and makeup.
Michel Le Parmentier, creator of the Mini-Miss contest in Paris, argued that regulations would be better than an all-out ban. If the law passes, he said would consider moving his pageant just across the border into Belgium.
Other pageant coordinators expressed frustration over the ban as well. Maud Chevalier, who started the Graines de Miss contest in 2001, would not allow young candidates to wear heels over 1.4 inches high, short dresses, wigs, makeup or swimsuits, according to The New York Times.
But that doesn’t seem to have eased senators’ concerns over how the pageants affect young participants.
“It is extremely destructive for a girl between the age of 6 and 12 to hear her mother say that what’s important for her is to be beautiful,” Jouanno told the Times on Wednesday. “We are fighting to say: What counts is what they have in their brains.”