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Ban on hair discrimination debated by French MPs | World News

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Politicians in France are debating on a bill that would ban hair discrimination.

The draft law would extend pre-existing measures to explicitly outlaw discrimination over texture, length, colour or style – particularly those with curly, coiled or no hair at all.

If passed, it would make France the first country in the world to recognise hair discrimination at a national level, according to Olivier Serva, a politician from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

“This is not a community whim but a real injustice that certain populations experience,” Mr Serva, who proposed the bill, wrote on X.

“Let us not minimise this suffering by arguing that there are other priorities, especially since iniquitous and grotesque laws have been approved by parliament in recent years.”

French Deputy of the National Assembly, Olivier Serva is photographed during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Nationial Assembly, in Paris, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. French lawmakers are debating a bill Thursday that would ban discrimination over the texture, length, color or style of someone's hair. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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Olivier Serva brought about the bill. Pic: AP

The draft law is supported by members of President Emmanuel Macron‘s Renaissance Party but has faced resistance from conservative and far-right politicians who see it as an effort to import concepts about race from the US.

So far, 24 states in the US have adopted similar legislation known as the Crown Act – which stands for creating a respectful and open world for natural hair – banning race-based hair discrimination in employment, housing, schools and in the military.

The act passed through the House of Representatives in 2022 but was later blocked by the Senate, where Republicans said it was unnecessary and that protections against hair discrimination already exist in several federal laws.

The French proposal about to be debated in the National Assembly – the lower house of the country’s parliament – does not specifically target race-based discrimination but it is believed that was the main motivation for the bill.

“It’s about time,” Estelle Vallois, a 43-year-old consultant said while getting her short, coiled hair cut in a Paris salon.

“Today, we are going even further toward taking down these barriers of discrimination.”

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A customer waits for a hair treatment,  in a hairdressing salon, in Paris, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. French lawmakers are debating a bill Thursday that would ban discrimination over the texture, length, color or style of someone's hair. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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Pic: AP

France does not collect official data about race, because it follows a model known as universalism, which doesn’t differentiate citizens by ethnic groups.

Although this makes it difficult to measure race-based hair discrimination, advocates hope the bill addresses the difficulties that black French people have in embracing their natural hair.

A black French air steward sued Air France after he was denied access to a flight because of his braids and coerced into wearing a wig with straight hair.

Aboubakar Traore won his case in 2022 after a decade-long judiciary battle. But the court ruled that it was not an example of hair discrimination but gender discrimination, since his female counterparts were allowed to wear braids.

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