On January 31, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister of women’s rights, made it officially possible to arrest a woman for wearing trousers in the French capital.
The law required women to ask police for special permission to “dress as men” in Paris, or risk being taken into custody.
In 1892 and 1909 the rule was amended to allow women to wear trousers, “if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.”
The law was kept in place until now, despite repeated attempts to repeal it, in part because officials said the unenforced rule was not a priority, and part of French “legal archaeology.
In July however, in a public request directed at Ms Vallaud-Belkacem, Alain Houpert, a senator and member of the conservative UMP party, said the “symbolic importance” of the law “could injure our modern sensibilities,” and he asked the minister to repeal it.
Ms Vallaud-Belkacem agreed, and in a published statement on Jan. 31st wrote: “This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men, which are listed in the Constitution, and in France’s European commitments.
“From that incompatibility follows the implicit abrogation of the ordinance.”
The restriction focused on Paris because French Revolutionary rebels in the capital said they wore trousers, as opposed to the knee-breeches, or the “culottes,” of the bourgeoisie, in what was coined the “sans-culottes” movement. Women rebels in the movement demanded the right to wear trousers as well, but were forbidden to do so