French Bill Could Criminalize Glorification of Eating Disorders

By McCarton Ackerman 03/19/15

The bill would require that models submit medical proof over previous healthy body mass.

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A new health bill out of France could potentially go after the glorification of eating disorders, banning the use of dangerously underweight models and potentially imposing jail sentences for those who violate the law.

Olivier Veran, a French lawmaker and doctor, has proposed amendments to the health bill that would address these issues. If approved, agencies would have to provide medical proof that any models used “have maintained a healthy mass-to-height ratio.” Running a pro-anorexia or “thinspiration” website would also be criminalized by up to one year in prison and fines of up to 10,000 euros ($10,615).

French health minister has voiced her support for the changes to the bill, which will be presented in French parliament at the end of the month. The country’s health ministry reports that 40,000 French citizens suffer from anorexia, 90% of whom are women.

Other European countries are also striking back against using dangerously thin models in their publications. Last February, the publisher of Danish magazine Cover apologized for using a “skeleton”-like model in one of its issues.

Sixteen-year-old model Lululeika Ravn Liep appeared emaciated and sickly in the full-page photo, sparking intense backlash on social media. Liep’s agency denied that the girl suffered from an eating disorder and claimed she “is in a bad time in her life after losing two members of her family,” but Cover publisher Malene Malling took full responsibility.

“I have not lived up to my responsibility as a publisher, woman and mother and am truly sorry,” she said. “We have always sought to work with the healthy girls. Just two months ago we had plus-size model Diana Graham on the front, so it is certainly a subject we focus on.”

Unfortunately, some of the photos on websites, which appear to promote eating disorders, are taken by those who are suffering from them. Some will frequently post selfies to pro-anorexia sites and chart their “progress” in reaching unrealistic and often dangerous weight loss goals. Dr. Alex Yellowlees, medical director of the Priory Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, said that the photos are often shared by others dealing with anorexia or bulimia.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.