Erdoğan’s remarks on gender equality stir fury

Erdoğan’s remarks on gender equality stir fury

Nuray Babacan / Şehriban Oğhan ANKARA
Erdoğan’s remarks on gender equality stir fury

Female activists gather in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir to protest domestic violence and the killing of women in Turkey. A fresh debate over gender equality has hit the political agenda following President Erdoğan’s latest controversial remarks.

The Turkish president’s controversial statements over gender equality have precipitated a new debate in Parliament, as well as opprobrium on the part of women’s rights activists.

In a Nov. 24 speech, Erdoğan said: “You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature because their nature is different.”

His remarks received reactions from the opposition parties. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ was visibly furious when she said the president of Turkey, who refuses to recognize gender equality, cannot preach to the mourning mothers of the country about motherhood.

“In the 21st century, one mentality says, ‘Women and men are not equal, this is against their nature.’ The other sells women at slave bazaars,” Yüksekdağ said on Nov. 25, respectively referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the jihadist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

“Can you see any difference between these two mentalities? I cannot,” Yüksekdağ said.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aylin Nazlıaka also reacted to Erdoğan's comments, saying she was not surprised at all. “We all know that he is sexist by nature,” Nazlıaka said in a written statement late Nov. 24, adding that he was "openly committing a hate crime" against women.

CHP Secretary General Gürsel Tekin, meanwhile, said his party would fight for women’s rights until domestic violence and inequality come to an end.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also criticized Erdoğan’s reference to “nature.” “We believe that Erdoğan, who says gender equality is not in human nature, has no justice or national and moral stance in his own nature,” said Bahçeli on Nov. 25.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies, however, defended Erdoğan and attempted to emphasize “what he really means.” The deputy head of the AKP’s women’s branches, Ankara deputy Tülay Selamoğlu, said he meant to say that women and men had differences through their creation.
She said the issue should be debated in terms of "human rights" rather than "women’s rights."

“These should not be separated. We have the same rights as humans. We have taken significant steps to defend this with laws,” Selamoğlu added.

Former Family Minister Güldal Akşit suggested that Erdoğan was referring to the "physical differences" between women and men in his speech.

“Women and men are different by creation. But we take them as equal in terms of rights and opportunities. I have been working with the president for 13 years, and I know what he meant. He believes in equality as you and we believe, and he is taking steps to this end,” said Akşit.

But lawyer Sema Kendirci, the head of the Turkish Women’s Union, said the president had committed a crime with his remarks by breaching the 10th and 90th articles of the Turkish Constitution, vowing to file a complaint against his remarks.

“I think it is a great misfortune for a person who represents the Turkish Republic to breach the Constitution and make statements that might open the way for more women’s killings. Nobody has the right to breach the Constitution, regardless of their position,” Kendirci said.