French MPs debate outlawing discrimination against afros and braids

By Thomson Reuters Mar 27, 2024 | 7:55 AM

PARIS (Reuters) – French lawmakers will vote on Thursday on much-debated draft legislation that would outlaw discrimination against dreadlocks, braids, afros and any other hair style, colour or texture.

Olivier Serva, a Black MP from the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, who drafted the bill, said it would allow victims of discrimination, which he says has “devastating impact”, to win their cases in court.

“It’s necessary to spell out clearly in our law that discrimination based on hair is illegal,” he said.

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

Serva cited a 2023 study by Dove and LinkedIn that showed that two out of three Black women in the United States changed their hair for a job interview, and that Black women’s hair was 2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional.

In the United States, at least 23 states have passed legislation aimed at protecting people from hair discrimination in the workplace and public schools.

But in France, which prides itself on a culture of universalism that states that all people are equal, and which does not allow ethnic quotas, or even collecting data based on ethnicity, not all back the proposal.

Conservative and far-right MPs, in particular, disagree with it.

Fabien Di Filipo, an MP for the conservative Les Republicains, argues that, since there already is legislation that bans discrimination based on looks, the draft bill is redundant.

Speaking in the parliamentary committee that discussed the draft ahead of the full-house debate, he said: “Should we tomorrow expect a bill on discrimination against bald people, which I think are underepresented in shampoo ads?”

The bill, Di Filipo said, aims to import a U.S. mindset in French legislation.

Serva rejected the argument, saying that there is equal suffering from hair discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic.

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

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Sharon Singleton)