French Parliament Moves Forward With Ban on Hair Discrimination

France's National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit workplace discrimination rooted in hair texture and style.
Hair Discrimination:- France's National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit workplace discrimination rooted in hair texture and style.[VOA]
Hair Discrimination:- France's National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit workplace discrimination rooted in hair texture and style.[VOA]

Hair Discrimination:- France's National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit workplace discrimination rooted in hair texture and style.

The bill was approved 44-2, with many members not voting. It must now pass the Senate, whose conservative majority makes its future less certain.

Advocates of the proposed legislation argue that it seeks primarily to safeguard the rights of Black women who choose to wear their hair in a natural style.

Olivier Serva, a National Assembly deputy for the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and the bill's sponsor, said it would penalize any workplace discrimination based on "hair style, color, length or texture" and would help victims of discrimination make their struggles visible through court cases. He also included discrimination faced by blondes and redheads.

"There is a lot of suffering [based on hair discrimination], and we need to take this into account," he told Reuters.

Laws in some 23 U.S. states recognize hair discrimination as a manifestation of racism. While statistics about hair discrimination are less clear in France, Serva referenced a study conducted in 2023 by LinkedIn and Unilever’s shampoo company Dove, which showed that roughly two-thirds of Black women in the United States alter their hair before a job interview because a natural style is 2.5 times more likely to be viewed as unprofessional.

The French bill does not use the word “racism,” which is problematic, said Daphne Bedinade, a social anthropologist. Since there are already laws banning discrimination based on appearance, not referencing the racial implications of hair discrimination adds fodder to critics' argument that the bill is unnecessary, she said.

"To make this only about hair discrimination is to mask the problems of people whose hair makes them a target of discrimination, mostly Black women," Bedinade told Le Monde newspaper.

The bill's critics also argue that passing it would not improve the legal protections for those facing discrimination.

Some French lawmakers felt the bill infused U.S. perspectives into French legislation.

Fabien Di Filippo of the conservative Les Republicains party mocked the bill. "Should we tomorrow expect a bill on discrimination against bald people, which I think are underrepresented in shampoo ads?" he said.

Others feel the bill promotes conversation and acknowledgment of hair discrimination.

Kenza Bel Kenadil, an influencer with 256,000 followers on Instagram, is a self-proclaimed "activist against hair discrimination." She said a law would send an important message.

"It would tell everybody that the law protects you in every way and lets you style your hair any way you want," she said. VOA/SP

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