PARIS (AFP) — The French National Assembly on Tuesday adopted a bill that would make it an offence to encourage anorexia or extreme thinness through "death messages" on websites, magazines and in advertisements.
Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the legislation would help stop messages disseminated on the Internet through pro-anorexia websites providing advice to girls on becoming ultra-skinny.
"Encouraging young girls to lie to their doctors, advising them on foods that are easier to regurgitate and inciting them to beat themselves up each time they eat is not freedom of expression," Bachelot told lawmakers.
"These messages are death messages. Our country must be able to prosecute those who are hiding behind these websites," she said.
Under the measure that must now win approval from the Senate to come into force, offenders could face jail sentences of up to two years and 30,000 euros (47,387 dollars) in fines.
A three-year jail term and 45,000 euros in fines could be sought against offenders if the incitement leads to death.
The vote in the lower house came a week after the French fashion industry signed a charter to promote healthy body images in magazine ads and on the catwalks of Paris, the world's fashion capital.
The charter outlines a series of guidelines but falls short of imposing restrictions, as is the case in Spain which has set limits on the weight for catwalk models.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 women suffer from anorexia in France, with two age groups -- 12-13 year-olds and 18-19 year-olds -- said to be must vulnerable to the disease, according to deputy Valerie Boyer, the author of the bill.
"It's time for public action against this scourge," Boyer said.
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