Sacked for refusing to walk behind men & wear abaya

A British stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was sacked when she refused to fly to Suadi Arabia after being told she’d have to walk behind her male colleagues and wear the traditional black robe, an abaya.

Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.

Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.

What you do when your beliefs clash with those which  are acceptable in another country isn’t always simple but if this is reported correctly it does appear the airline was asking more of its employees than would be expected in Saudi Arabia.

The idea of any individual or group of people being required to walk behind another offends me and I struggle with the whole concept of the cover-all clothing which some Muslim women are expected to wear.

Some say it’s their choice but I wonder if it’s a free choice.

Fears of terrorism have declined a bit, but if there was another mass attack such as the September 9th ones in the USA or the bus and underground bombings in London authorities might look again at the security implications of voluminous robes.

That’s what put an end to the women of Vejer de la Frontera wearing the cobijaba.


It was common of women of the village to wear this until the Civil War when suspicion that men were disguising themselves as women by wearing the all-concealing black robe and hiding arms under it led to it being banned.

P.S. Stargazer has a related post on religion and gender equality  at the Hand Mirror.

2 Responses to Sacked for refusing to walk behind men & wear abaya

  1. Job Samuel says:

    Its a good decision that Lisa Ashton preferred to challenge the policy set by BMI. It is also unfortunate that BMI decided to sack her without weighing options. If a staff who has put in 9 years in the company is not comfortable is any particular situation, the airline could check the availability of options, which in this case BMI certainly has.

    Lisa’s decision is not just a case of a woman daring to stand up for womens rights. It is a case of a person trying to make the world a more sane place for all of us to live.

    We hope Lisa’s career goes on uniterrupted, if not with BMI, with any other company with sane policies.


  2. Ms Ashton says:

    I dont think you realise how much support like this means to Lisa. You have hit the nail so on the head.
    Just to let you know, her union Unite/Amicus refused to back her case and not only that they refused her point black to get direct access to a legal expert, it had to go “via a union official”. At no point was she given advice on how to handle the situation. frankly they were appaling therefore we have fought it alone. There are many many asspects of this case which when they come out should sadden any right minded person. Of couse they had options, she was not even based at airport that the Saudi flights departed from.
    Again thank you so much for your support

    Once again, thank you for your support


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: