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'Unprofessional, dirty and wild': French lawmakers vote to outlaw hair discrimination

Those sporting Afro-styled hair, blonde or ginger hair, dreads, braids or even balding heads could gain new protections in France, where a bill outlawing discrimination based on hair texture, length, colour or style cleared a first hurdle in the French parliament on Thursday. While some argue the law is unnecessary, others say it will fill a gap in existing legislation tackling discrimination. 


File photo: Steam rises as a hair stylist works on a model with kinky hair during New York fashion week in 2019. © Julio Cortez, AP


After years of hearing all sorts of derogatory comments from schoolmates about her Afro-styled kinky hair, Kenza Bel Kenadil was met with the same contempt when she entered the job market. At the tender age of 17, she was told at work that her hair was “unprofessional, dirty and wild”.

When she eventually took a job as a hostess at a hotel in southern France, she was shouted at by management. “Either you go home and change hairstyles”, her boss roared, “or don’t come in to work”.

Discrimination based on hair texture, length, colour or style is at the heart of a bill tabled by Olivier Serva, an MP from the LIOT group (Liberties, Independents, Overseas and Territories) from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. His aim is to ensure that hair discrimination becomes punishable by law. First introduced in September 2023, the bill was adopted by the National Assembly on Thursday March 28.


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