France bans under-16 girls from competing in pageants; could modeling be next?

In a move to end the "hypersexualization" of young girls, The Guardian reports that France has banned girls under 16 from competing in pageants.

The proposal, which was introduced as part of a gender equality movement by former sports and youth affairs minister Chantal Jouanno, passed in the French Sénat today and will now be returned to the Assemblée Nationale for approval.

"Don't let us allow our girls to believe from an early age that their only value is their looks," Joanno argued. "Don't let us allow commercial interests to outweigh social interests."

But France's women's rights minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem opposes the ban, calling the penalties too harsh. Proposed punishment for pageant organizers who ignore the under-16 ban include a €30,000 ($40,050) fine and up to two years in prison. Vallaud-Belkacem attempted to mitigate the punishment by allowing pageant officials to seek permission to stage their events, but she was defeated.

France, of course, is the home of former controversial child model Thylane Blondeau. Blondeau, who posed for French Vogue at 10 years old looking...well, significantly older than 10, caused quite a stir when the images hit stateside. The French, who also once faced controversy after a lingerie line for kids hit the web, seemed nonplussed.

So if girls under 16 can't hit the pageant circuit, could they be barred from modeling next? The Model Alliance and the Vogue Health Initiative have both been moving towards this goal, albeit without government backing. If the idea is to end the "hypersexualization" of young girls in France, a modeling ban certainly seems like the next logical step. We'll be keeping an eye out.

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