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Turkey president Erdogan: Women are not equal to men

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said women cannot be treated as equal to men, and has accused feminists of rejecting motherhood. “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing,” he told a meeting in Istanbul. “It is against nature.”


He also said feminists did not grasp the importance of motherhood in Islam. His comments often seek to appeal to his pious core supporters, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul, but they anger more liberal voters.


Turks who have more secular views argue that the government’s social policies are taking the country in a dangerous direction, our correspondent says. Mr Erdogan has previously urged women to have three children, and has lashed out against abortion and birth by Caesarean section.


His latest remarks were delivered at a women’s conference in Istanbul. “In the workplace, you cannot treat a man and a pregnant woman in the same way,” Mr Erdogan said, according to the Anadolu news agency.


Women cannot do all the work done by men, he added, because it was against their “delicate nature”. “Our religion regards motherhood very highly,” he said. “Feminists don’t understand that, they reject motherhood.”


He said women needed equal respect rather than equality.


Women rights activists and lawyers constantly criticize the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which was led by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan from 2003 until he was elected to the presidency in August, for the increasingly conservative and authoritarian political culture they say it is fostering.


Turkey ranked 120th of 136 nations in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Gender Gap Index, down 15 places since 2006, while a 2011 U.N. report indicated that Turkey’s domestic violence rates are almost twice those in the United States and 10 times higher than in some European countries.


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