Rights groups condemn Erdogan’s comments on women

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Several feminists and women’s rights groups have slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over comments he made where he said that men and women were not equal.

Erdogan made the comments during a meeting where he took a dig at feminists by saying, “You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature because their nature is different.”

Eight rights groups released a joint statement saying that Erdogan’s comments served to “denigrate decades of effort by women’s movements for gender equality.”

Erdogan’s political party has an Islamist background, which opponents see as a threat to the country, largely seen as a pillar of successful secularism in the Middle East.

“You cannot subject a pregnant woman to the same working conditions as a man,” Erdogan had said at a summit hosted by an Istanbul-based women’s group.

“You cannot make a mother who has to breastfeed her child equal to a man,” he said. “You cannot make women do everything men do like the communist regimes did. You cannot tell them to go out and dig the soil, this is against her delicate nature.”

Erdogan said that the sexes should be “equivalent” as opposed to equal.

“Equality is turning the victim into an oppressor by force or vice versa,” he said. “What women need is to be able to be equivalent, rather than equal, so it is justice. That is what we need.”

Women’s rights groups condemned Erdogan’s comments, saying that they represent a setback for women’s struggle against inequality.

“We …believe that equality is not a bargaining chip but a democratic and universal right and that we will not give up on striving for equality,” the joint statement said.

“We reject the rhetoric which we believe is an effort to take back rights which were attained by women nearly 100 years ago.”