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French parliament passes bill against hair discrimination

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France’s lower house of parliament on Thursday approved a bill forbidding workplace discrimination based on hair texture, which the draft law’s backers say has hit mostly black women wearing their hair naturally.

Olivier Serva, an independent National Assembly deputy for the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe and the bill’s sponsor, said it would penalise any workplace discrimination based on “hair style, colour, length or texture”.

Similar laws exist in around 20 US states which have identified hair discrimination as an expression of racism. In Britain, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued guidelines against hair discrimination in schools.

Serva, who is black, said women “of African descent” were often encouraged before job interviews to change their style of hair. Backers also say that men who wear their hair in styles like dreadlocks are also affected.

The bill was approved in the lower house National Assembly with 44 votes in favour and two against. It will now head to the upper Senate where the right has the majority and the vote’s outcome is much less certain.

Serva, who also included discrimination suffered by blondes, redheads and bald men in his proposal, points to an American study stating that a quarter of black women polled said they had been ruled out for jobs because of how they wore their hair at the job interview.

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