By Jessica Sarhan
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again sparked outrage among women’s rights groups by declaring that men and women are not equal. However, unlike similar statements made in the past, his comments mostly sparked angry words, as opposed to the mass protests that traditionally would follow.
“You cannot put women and men on an equal footing … it’s against nature. They were created differently,” Erdogan said in the now-infamous address he gave on Monday in Istanbul.
The speech, ironically made to Turkey’s Women and Democracy Association, has caused great offence, particularly within the country’s secular community.
“How can a president of a country legitimately say these things? What he said is a crime. It’s a crime according to our legislation and it’s a crime according to universal laws,” Erdogan Erdogan, a women’s rights activist, told Al Jazeera while en route to an anti-sexism rally in Istanbul.
Aylin Nazliaka, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), took to Twitter to denounce Erdogan’s speech as a “hate crime” against women.
The late 1980s, early 1990s, saw an emergence of women’s rights groups in Turkey that had not existed before.
In 1993, Women for Women’s Human Rights was created to rally for women’s equal participation in Turkish society. However, in 2014, the feminist movement seems to have lulled with many of the women Al Jazeera spoke to saying they were unsurprised by Erdogan’s comments, and felt disheartened by his re-election.
The energy and enthusiasm from past decades had withered.
Erdogan was equally adamant about women in the workforce, saying: “You can’t get a woman to work in every job that a man does, like they did in communist regimes in the past… You can’t put a pickaxe and a shovel in their hand and get them to work. “