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France: Parliament Passes Legislation to Strike the Word “Race” from All French Laws

(Aug. 6, 2013) On May 16, 2013, the French legislature passed a draft law to strike the word “race” from all of its legislation. (No Such Thing as ‘Race,’ Say French Lawmakers, FRANCE 24 (May 17, 2013).) According to a report issued by the Commission des Lois Constitutionnelles, de la Législation et de l’Administration Générale de la République sur la Proposition de Loi (No 218) de Mm. André Chassaigne [et al.], Tendant à la Suppression du mot “Race” de Notre Legislation, the words “race” and “racial” were present 59 times in French legislation, appearing thirteen times in laws and nine times in codes. (Assemblée Nationale, Rapport No. 989 [in French] (last visited Aug. 1, 2013).) The report also indicates that the word “race” will be replaced with the word “ethnicity” (Id.) The proposal was introduced by Member of Parliament Francois Asensi, of the Far-Left Left Front coalition. (No Such Thing as ‘Race’, Say French Lawmakers, supra.)

According to the President of the Republic, the word “race” does not have a place in France; that is why he has been urging Parliament to strike the word from both the Constitution and legislation. (Suppressing the Word ‘Race’ in the Laws of France [in French], EUROPE 1 (May 17, 2013).) Some members of the opposition raised concerns, however, over the technical problems that could result from word’s continued inclusion in the Constitution, even if absent in legislation. (Pour les Députés Français, “la République ne Reconnaît Aucune Race,” FRANCE 24 (M 17, 2013).)

A Member of Parliament from the Independent Democrat Union, Philippe Gome, remarked that racism might not disappear despite the good intentions evidenced in striking out the word race from legislation. (Id.)

Written by Wilfried Tchangoue, Intern, Law Library of Congress, under the supervision of Edith Palmer, Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II.