French lawmakers vote to outlaw discrimination against afros and braids

French Parliament has approved legislation to outlaw discrimination against dreadlocks, braids, afros and any other hair style, colour or texture.

The lower-house of France’s passed the law despite opposition from some who called the bill an unnecessary import of US ideas.

Olivier Serva, a Black MP from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, who drafted the bill, said it would help victims of such discrimination, in the workplace and beyond, make their voices heard and win court cases.

“There is a lot of suffering (based on hair discrimination) and we need to take this into account,” he told Reuters news agency.

The bill, which aims to ban all discrimination against hair texture or hair cuts, will also protect blond women from sexist discrimination, Serva said.

The new laws will be added to already existing anti-discrimination legislation, if approved by the upper-house of Parliament.

The bill was approved by 44 legislators against only two, while many MPs did not vote at all for this first reading of the text.

The new legislation has been meet with criticism, particularly by republican politicians.

Speaking in a parliamentary committee ahead of the full-house debate, Fabien Di Filipo of the conservative Les Republicains mocked the bill, saying: “Should we tomorrow expect a bill on discrimination against bald people, which I think are underrepresented in shampoo ads?”

He said France already bans discrimination based on looks so the draft bill was redundant, adding it aimed to import a U.S. mindset in French legislation.

Philippe Schreck, from the far-right National Rally, told parliament lawmakers should work on more important issues, such as the country’s public debt, rather than on hair discrimination.

French law currently fosters a strong culture of universalism, which promote the idea  that all people are equal, and does not allow ethnic quotas, or even collecting data based on ethnicity.

This new law comes following a 2023 study by Unilever’s shampoo brand Dove and LinkedIn that showed that two out of three black women in the United States changed their hair for a job interview. Black women’s hair was 2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional, the study found.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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