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Assembly removes word ‘race’ from French constitution

The National Assembly has unanimously voted to remove the word “race” from the French constitution.

On Thursday July 12, MPs voted to remove the word “race” from the first founding article of the Fifth Republic, as well as add in a guarantee that citizens will not be distinguished by sex.

The Senate is now set to vote on the amendment, and, if it agrees, the new version will stand.

It will read: “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures equality before the law for all citizens, without distinction of sex, origin, or religion.”

Currently, the word “race” features between the words “origin” and “religion”.

Yet, the word itself is now disputed.

It was first introduced into the Constitution in 1946, as a clear statement against racist theories such as those propagated by Nazism in Germany.

However, parliamentary groups now agree that the word is today “badly understood” and “unfounded”, now that modern science has shown that human beings do not belong to different, biological races.

“Race” is ultimately an outdated term, parliamentary groups said.

The move comes some years after the word “race” was removed from French legislation, in 2013.

This was seen as the first step in changing the constitution, and was one of former President François Hollande’s campaign promises ahead of his election; a promise that his successor, President Emmanuel Macron, is now taking on.

But some anti-racism groups have criticised the change.

Émilia Roig, founder of the Center for Intersectional Justice, said: “Race may not exist, but racism still does, and it kills.”

Houria Bentouhami, a philosophy teacher in Toulouse, added: “In order to fight racism, we must have a critical tool allowing us to name it.”

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