Promote eating disorders as a "lifestyle choice" in France and you could be looking at a fine of up to €30,000 and a two-year prison sentence if you "provoke a person to seek excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged restriction of nourishment" to the point of risking of death or damage to health. The prison term is raised to three years with a €45,000 fine if the person dies.
"The pro-ana movements which spread their messages of death on the web must be the target for special attention," said French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot. "Waif-like, diaphanous, transparent bodies on the walls of our towns, in our magazines and on our computer screens are exerting their power of harmful fascination on our society."
It remains unclear how this law will be enforced, and the nature of the internet makes it impossible to truly ban these kinds of damaging messages. As soon as you shut one site down, ten others will appear to replace it. But what's interesting here is that the law is based on another piece of French legislation that makes it illegal to abet a suicide. With this new law, the French government is recognizing eating disorders as serious, life-threatening mental illnesses and declaring that it is criminally abusive to play into someone's vulnerabilities with pro-ana b.s. But pro-ana websites are usually started by people who are caught up in disordered eating and looking for validation. So in case after case, the criminals and the victims of these crimes will be one and the same. It's a tricky one. What do you think? [The Australian]