Annabelle Betemps, a guest house operator from the Alps, has entered her daughter in multiple pageants and lamented the harshness of the new law.
“We are hyper-disappointed,” she said, describing the joys and friendships she and her daughter Barbara, now 13, have experienced thanks to pageants.
She said preparing children to present themselves on stage is a gift that helps them throughout life.
“You can’t tell me that the Senate will solve the country’s problems by banning the mini-miss pageants,” she said, pleading with legislators to address other ills blighting children such as drug and alcohol addiction.
The senators debated whether to come up with a softer measure limiting such pageants, but in the end decided on an overall ban.
The Socialist government’s equal rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, suggested Wednesday that the Socialists may push for a compromise measure when the bill goes to the lower house of Parliament in the coming weeks. The amendment’s author said the proposed punishments might be lightened in later readings but expressed confidence that the ban would survive.
Concerns about child beauty pageants have popped up in several countries in recent years, but regulations are rare.
In 2006, Sweden, Denmark and Norway pulled out of a pan-European children’s song contest and started their own to protest treatment of the contestants, as some were dressed like sexed-up dolls.
Controversy has also clouded adult beauty pageants. The 63rd edition of the Miss World pageant this month was moved to Bali after days of protests by ultraconservative Muslim groups confined the event to the only Hindu-dominated province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.