"Don't let's allow our girls to believe that they all that their only value is their looks from a very young age," said Chantal Jouanno, the former sports minister in Nicolas Sartkozy's government who moved the amendement to a government-sponsored anti-sexism bill. "Don't let's allow commercial interests to have the upper hand over social interests."
Earlier this year Jouanno, who is a member of a small, centre-right party, slammed the "hypersexualisation" of children by the beauty contests and she went on to draft an amendment designed to stamp them out.
But the Socialist charged with putting the gender equality bill through parliament, Virginie Klès, judged the penalties to harsh and Women's Rights Minister and government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem put an alternative amendment that would oblige would-be pageant organisers to apply for official permission to hold them.
Their arguments failed even to convince senators, however, and Jouanno's proposal was passed by 196 to 146.
The amended law must now return to the lower house to be approved before becoming law.