Stressing that a woman’s life is incomplete if she does not bear children, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently described childless women as deficient. Speaking at the opening of a new building for Turkey’s Women’s and Democracy Association (KADEM) last month, Erdogan urged Muslim women to have at least three children and condemned those who choose to pursue a career over raising a family.
“A woman who abstains from motherhood saying ‘I am working’ means she is in fact rejecting motherhood,” he said. “I absolutely don't accept making (a woman's) business life an alternative to motherhood. Rejecting motherhood means giving up on humanity. I would recommend having at least three children. A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete. The fact that a woman is attached to her professional life should not prevent her from being a mother.”
While explaining how Turkey was taking important measures to support “working mothers”, Erdogan had earlier discouraged Muslim families from using contraception and worrying about family planning.
Calling on “devout” Muslims to have more children, Erdogan had said during a televised speech, “No Muslim family should engage in birth control or family planning. We will multiply our descendants. They talk about population planning, birth control. No Muslim family can have such an approach. Nobody can interfere in God's work. The first duty here belongs to mothers.”
According to the Statistics Office, Turkey’s gross population clocked at 78.7 million in 2015 as opposed to 68 million in 2000. Despite the current growth rate of 1.3 percent and fertility rate of two births per woman, Erdogan indicated that he wants larger numbers for Turkey, which apparently has “great goals” and wants to “mobilize every member to this effect”.
“Strong families lead to strong nations,” he said.
Erdogan’s conservative comments naturally drew ire from women’s rights advocates in the country.
“We do not think that defining women over motherhood, and mulling over how many children they should have, or whether they should work or not, are among the main duties of the president,” said Sirin Mine Kilic, secretary general of KADER. “It would be more useful if the president could mull over issues such as murders of women, child abuse, unemployment of women, and violence against women.”
The Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology too condemned Erdogan's comments, calling them a “violation of women's rights”.
Yaser Colak, spokesperson for Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) in Washington, said Islam does encourage marriage between a man and a woman and expects a couple to have as many children as they like.
“If parents can't live up to their material and spiritual responsibilities for their children, then Islam does permit birth control,” he clarified.
Erdogan himself has two sons and two daughters with his wife Emine.
Photo Credits: Sputnik News