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Bill to ban child beauty pageants passes French Senate

In an effort to protect young girls from being sexualized too early, the French Senate has approved a bill banning beauty pageants for girls under 16. Stiff penalties can be imposed for anyone who violates the rule.

The French Senate late on Tuesday night passed a measure banning child beauty pageants with 197 votes for and 146 against. The measure will now move to the lower house of the French parliament.

A recent parliamentary report called "Against Hyper-Sexualization: A New Fight For Equality" called for the ban on beauty pageants and other measures, such as prohibitions on child-size adult clothing (like padded bras and high-heels) as a means of protecting young children

"Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is only judged by their appearance," said Chantal Jouanno, a lawmaker and author of the report.

The beauty pageants targeted by the legislation are controversial because young girls often compete in heavy makeup and adult clothes. Proponents of the law say this sends the wrong message.

Young psychologically misled

"At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge," Jouanno said. "Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child."

The measure explicitly bans the participation of beauty competitions for children under 16 years old, without listing specifically what kind of competition this might mean or if it applied to other contests such as online photo competitions. The penalty for entering a child in a beauty contest is up to two years in prison and 30,000 euros ($40,000).

The Senate debated on simply limiting such beauty pageants but ultimately decided on the sweeping ban.

mz/ipj (AP, AFP)