Motherhood not a career for men: Turkish health minister

Motherhood not a career for men: Turkish health minister

Motherhood not a career for men: Turkish health minister

Writer Elif Şafak was among those who swiftly reacted to the health minister’s statements, as she said motherhood is not a career.

Turkey’s health minister has revisited his New Year’s Day comments about motherhood being the only acceptable career for women, while informing men that they need not apply for the task of being mothers.

The opportunity for Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu to continue in his foray into career counseling and gender relations presented itself on Jan. 2 when reporters asked him to comment on the uproar over his assertion that women’s place is to rear children.

“Motherhood is a career, the importance of which can never be [underestimated], and a career which can exist from the coming into being of the human until his end. Motherhood is indisputably a career,” Müezzinoğlu told reporters as he attended an event at Istanbul’s Feshane International Fair Congress and Culture Center.

While visiting the first baby born in 2015 early on Jan. 1, the minister floated his thesis that mothers should not put any career before motherhood. This time, however, he delivered recommendations to men who might have been considering a career in motherhood.

“Hence, motherhood is not a career which every person can have. It is not a career that men can have. It is a career which is never disputable and is sacred,” Müezzinoğlu said.

Turkish men have yet to comment on the matter en masse, although a number of intellectuals and politicians pilloried Müezzinoğlu over his initial comments toward women.

Writer Elif Şafak was among those who swiftly reacted to the health minister’s statements. In a message posted on her Twitter account, Şafak said: “Motherhood is not a career. Turkish women should decide their own paths in life, [not male politicians from above].”

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aylin Nazlıaka also slammed Müezzinoğlu, saying: “The only career of the health minister who said, ‘Women’s only career should be motherhood,’ should be to stop speaking. There is no sincerity in this mentality glorifying motherhood; there are ulterior motives behind these statements. The aim is to make women second-class citizens.”

“Mothers have the career of motherhood, which cannot be possessed by anyone else in the world. Mothers should not put another career other than motherhood at the center of their lives. They should put raising good generations at the center of their attention,” Müezzinoğlu said Jan. 1. 

On Jan 2, recalling that some critics suggested that motherhood was not an issue to be discussed by politicians, Müezzinoğlu said “politicians who are elected by the nation” could discuss all the problems of the country. 

“Those who say that a politician should not deliver his opinion on this or that matter are not supporters of either democracy or the nation. Those who appreciate and have respect for the nation and the national will, should also appreciate and respect those who the nation elects,” he said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who served as prime minister of the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from March 2003 until he was elected to his current post in August 2014, has long blessed and promoted a motherhood role for women, while exhorting women to have at least three children each.

In November 2014, Erdoğan told an international conference on justice and rights for women that women should not be regarded as equal to men and claimed that feminists in Turkey rejected the idea of motherhood.

One month later, echoing Erdoğan’s stance, his successor, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, suggested that today humanity needed “family compassion” more than ever while suggesting that gender equality was one of the reasons for high suicide rates in Scandinavia.

Women’s rights activists and lawyers constantly criticize the AKP government for the increasingly conservative and authoritarian political culture they say it is fostering.

According to Gönül Karahanoğlu, head of the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates (KADER), said it was not the government’s place to “assign motherhood to women in the form of a directive.”

“Is it possible to say that fatherhood should be at the top of men’s careers?” Karahanoğlu asked. “There are millions of women who cannot have a child although they wish, what will they do then? This way, they are being extremely otherized and offended.”

Gülden Türktan, head of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGİDER), underlined that raising a child needs joint energy.

“Japan has long lived with a culture which requires women to stay at home. Now, with women’s involvement in the economy, Japan has developed. Motherhood is a situation. Women and men jointly make a decision on the woman’s motherhood situation and work situation. For a minister to make such a decision is against human rights,” Türktan said.