France weighs bill banning types of hair discrimination

Staff WritersAP
A bill in France aims to offer protection to people facing discrimination over their style of hair. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconA bill in France aims to offer protection to people facing discrimination over their style of hair. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

French politicians are debating a bill that would ban discrimination over the texture, length, colour or style of someone's hair.

The bill's authors hope the groundbreaking measure sends a message of support to Black people and others who have faced hostility in the workplace and beyond because of their hair.

"It's about time," exclaimed Estelle Vallois, a 43-year-old consultant getting her short, coiled hair cut in a Paris salon, where the hairdressers are trained to handle all types of hair - a rarity in France.

"Today, we're going even further toward taking down these barriers of discrimination."

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The draft law echoes similar legislation in more than 20 US states. The bill was proposed by Olivier Serva, a French lawmaker from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, who says if passed it would make France the first country in the world to recognise discrimination based on hair at a national level.

The bill would amend existing anti-discrimination measures in the labour code and criminal code to explicitly outlaw discrimination against people with curly and coiled hair or other hairstyles perceived as unprofessional, as well as bald people. It does not specifically target race-based discrimination, though that was the primary motivation for the bill.

"People who don't fit in Euro-centric standards are facing discrimination, stereotypes and bias," Serva, who is Black, told The Associated Press.

The bill has a chance of passing in Thursday's vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, because it is supported by members of President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party Renaissance and left-wing parties.

But it has faced opposition from conservative and far-right lawmakers who see it as an effort to import US concepts about race and racial discrimination to France.

Opponents of the French bill say France's legal framework already offers enough protection to people facing discrimination over their natural Afro hair, braids, cornrows or locs.

Advocates of the bill hope it addresses Black French people's long struggle to embrace their natural hair, often stigmatised as coarse and unruly.

Aude Livoreil-Djampou, a hairdresser and mother of three mixed-race children, said that while some people view the draft law as frivolous, it's about something deeper.

"It's not only a hair issue. It will give strength to people to be able to answer, when asked to straighten their hair, they can say: 'No, this is not legal, you cannot expect that from me, it has nothing to do with my professional competence.'"

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