France bans websites promoting anorexia 'cult'

Internet sites and blogs which peddle the gospel of an "anorexic lifestyle" to teenage girls were outlawed by the French parliament yesterday. The law is the first attempt anywhere in the world to stamp out the "pro-ana" movement, a cult-like attempt to promote anorexia as a lifestyle which began in the United States eight years ago.

If, as expected, the legislation is also approved by the Senate, it will become a criminal offence in France "to encourage another person to seek excessive thinness... which could expose them to a risk of death or endanger their health". Offenders risk two years in prison or a €30,000 (£24,000) fine.

Although the law would also apply to magazines, it is mostly aimed at internet sites and blogs which have sprung up in France in the past two years. These sites, which also exist in the UK, worship extremely thin female celebrities, including Nicole Richie and Victoria Beckham.

The French Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, told parliament: "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. The messages sent out here are messages of death."

A typical French blog, Be Perfect, Be Pro Ana, carries a long letter signed "your future best friend Ana". It encourages teenage girls to refuse food, to make themselves sick and to take laxatives in order to match the body shape of their "thinspirations" such as Richie and Beckham.

"I am the only person who can tell you the truth," the blog says. "Everyone else lies to you because they love you but I'm going to tell you a secret: in the depths of their heart, they are disappointed with what has happened to you. Their talented girl has become fat and lazy. But I am going to change all that!"

The law's author, the centre-right deputy Valérie Boyer, says that between 30,000 and 40,000 people in France have anorexia. Most are girls or young women aged between 12 and 13 or 18 and 19. Anorexia, she says, kills more people in France each year than any other mental disorder.

At the same time, Mme Boyer and the Health Minister have drawn up a "voluntary charter on bodily image and anorexia". French advertisers, model agencies and prêt-à-porter fashion houses have agreed to sign the charter and to "refuse to publish images, especially of young people, which could promote an ideal of extreme thinness."

But will the globally influential French fashion industry respect the charter and how will modelling and fashion professionals define "extreme thinness"?

About a dozen blogs pop up in a search for Pro Ana. Be Perfect, Be Pro Ana suggests that the ideal of ultra-slimness has become a subject of obsessional pride among some girls and that fashion magazines are their inspiration and bible.

"Stop talking with your stomach!" the blog orders. "You're nothing but a fat, bloody cow! If you eat, all discipline will be lost. Is that what you want? To return to the fat cow that you are? I will force you to read fashion magazines and look at those perfect bodies which mock you..."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Insurance Account Executive / Business Development

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Several opportunities to join t...

Recruitment Genius: Patient Advisor / Treatment Assistant

£13520 - £19520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's market leader in Refra...

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Business Development B2B - Year 1 OTE £25,000

£17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Several opportunities to join t...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works