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I’m a defender of women’s rights, says Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims he is a defender of woman's rights. – Reuters pic, November 26, 2014.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims he is a defender of woman's rights. – Reuters pic, November 26, 2014.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today insisted he had advocated women's rights throughout his political career, accusing media of distorting his hugely controversial comments on equality between men and women.

"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. Equivalence rather than equality is what women need. That's what I said," Erdogan told a meeting of businessmen in Istanbul.

"Nobody can slander me or my colleagues when it is obvious how I have personally defended women's movement throughout my 40-year political career," he said.

Erdogan, a devout Muslim, told an international conference on justice and rights for women on Monday that women should not be regarded as equal to men and claimed feminists in Turkey reject the idea of motherhood.

Erdogan also said justice rather than equality was what women needed, adding that manual labour work was against women's "delicate nature".

His comments dismissing the idea of gender equality sparked an outcry among women's rights activists who accused Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey's political scene for more than a decade, of blatant sexism.

Erdogan today accused the media of "lacking morals" by distorting what he had said.

The president called on those he said had defamed him to "look themselves in the mirror while it is obvious how I emboldened the women's movement within the political party I was affiliated with".

Erdogan co-founded the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) which has dominated Turkish politics since it came to power in late 2002.

Erdogan has now severed official ties with the party as required by the constitution after becoming president in August.

While the AKP claims to have improved gender equality while in power there is only one female minister in the Turkish government, Family and Social Minister Aysenur Islam.

The controversy over his remarks on women came a week after Erdogan raised eyebrows in Turkey and worldwide by suggesting Muslims had discovered the Americas and even built a mosque there. – AFP, November 26, 2014.

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