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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

France Takes Aim At Anorexia With A Law To Punish Those Who Promote The Disease

We have all seen those extraordinarily skinny women walking down the runway in the world of haute couture or high fashion, the ones where their rib cages stick out and they look sickly. France has had enough and is proposing a law aimed at battling this.
France has decided to be aggressive against websites and individuals that encourage or promote anorexia, with the French National Assembly approving unprecedented legislation that would make promoting extreme dieting practices punishable by law. The penalty would be up to two years in prison and fines of up to $47,000. That jail term would rise to three years in cases where anorexia was the cause of death.

The bill must be passed by the Senate before it becomes law.

The wording in the bill says it would be illegal to "provoke a person to aspire to excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged food limitations."

Anorexia Nervosa is an intense fear of gaining weight. Some anorexics will chew food for the taste and flavor, then spit it out for fear of the calories making them gain an ounce or two.

The French Health Ministry estimates that there are around 30,000-40,000 anorexics, 90 percent of them young women.

Health experts say eating disorders among adolescent girls and young women are fuelled by insidious pressure from advertising, films, television and other media to match unattainable levels of physical attractiveness.

This new law being proposed in France is specifically aimed at pro-anorexia websites where young women share tips about appetite suppressants and suggestions on how to ultra thin.

The Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, gave a speech in parliament where she said, "Giving young girls advice about how to lie to their doctors, telling them what kinds of food are easiest to vomit, encouraging them to torture themselves whenever they take any kind of food is not part of liberty of expression."

These messages are death messages," she said. "Our country must be able to prosecute those who are hiding behind these Web sites."

Critics of this new proposed law say the courts should not be the arbiters of health or beauty.

The editor of France's Elle magazine, Isabelle Maury, states, "It may mean that we won't be able to publish anything. I wonder how this bill will be implemented and interpreted. If they decide to strictly implement it, it could mean that every fashion show and magazine will be banned or charged."

The debate hit high gear after the deaths of of a couple of well known models, one of which was Ana Carolina Reston who died of anorexia in 2006.

Other countries have taken certain steps in battling anorexia, such as Spain, who has banned models with less than a specified body mass index, Italy has stopped girls under 16 from taking to the runways and has started insisting all models to present health certificates proving they do not suffer from eating disorders. In Britain they have laws which require that models with anorexia or bulimia show proof that they are being treated fro these disorders before they can participate in London Fashion Week this September.

Anorexia Nervosa is the psychiatric pathology with the highest mortality rate, 20 percent within 17 years from the diagnosis.

With proper treatment, about 40 percent of those suffering with Anorexia can recover completely, in 35 percent of the cases, some sort of sub-symptom remains and in 25 percent of Anorexia cases it evolves towards an incurable chronic condition.