France has received a great deal of unwanted attention in recent weeks after the French government finally revoked an antiquated law banning women in the French capital from wearing pants. The ban had been in place since 1800 following the French Revolution when women were demanding to wear pants pursuant to a movement for equal rights. In response, the law was enacted so that women were required to receive special permission from the police to “dress as men” in Paris. One commentator explains the purpose of the law: “[B]anning women from trouser-wearing was thus an effective way of banning them from the rank and file of the revolution–and of keeping them, basically, in their place.” Some exceptions were later allowed so women could ride bicycles or horses. In 1946, the ban remained on the books even after women were declared equal to men in the French Constitution. However, the law has been completely unenforced in recent decades. Nevertheless, France’s Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, officially lifted the ban on January 31, 2013. In a statement, Vallaud-Belkacem 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.”

Antiquated and sexist laws are not unique to France. Indeed, there have been many unenforced sexist laws on the books throughout the United States. For example, New Jersey finally revoked three archaic and sexist laws in 2011. One of the repealed laws required a man and woman to wait at least 72 hours to get married unless the man was arrested for “bastardy, rape, fornication or of having had carnal knowledge of an unmarried female, and the accused person consents to marry such female.” The New Jersey Law Revision Commission aptly described the statutes as “a demeaning relic.” Perhaps the Star-Ledger Editorial Board sums up the situation best: “[L]aw should be a living document that reflects the times, our beliefs and our values. And when we don’t like what the words say about us, we should change them…”