The Assemblée Nationale of France made discrimination based on regional accents an actionable offense Friday, adopting a bill proposed by deputy Chrisophe Euzet by a vote of 98 to 3. The new law punishes accent discrimination in the same manner as discrimination based on ethnicity, gender or disability. Those who violate the law may face up to three years in prison along with a 45,000 euro fine.
A report conducted by the Assemblée’s Committee on Constitutional Laws found that 27% of individuals surveyed are often mocked for their accent, an 16% of individuals indicated that they had been discriminated against in both professional and academic settings. Many have not challenged such discrimination because French law did not recognize it as an actionable offense. As such, the Committee believed it was necessary to change the law.
The Committee explained the purpose of the bill:
The present bill aims to promote the diversity of pronunciation of the French language by prohibiting “discrimination by accent” that we see factually in functions involving, in particular, public expression: the test intends to change attitudes overtime by initiating the modification of the law in force. The notion of discrimination, which is very present in French law, does not in fact integrate the difficulties which speakers with a local accent face, in a very real way, when they want to take up certain careers involving public expression. It is essential today, for the sake of equal opportunities and in times of doubt as to the cohesion of the territories on which the Nation is founded, to send a strong sign of recognition, by promoting the revaluation of “atypical” pronunciations.