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Ankara: Equality among men and women is against the “natural disposition" of humanity, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a gender conference in Istanbul.

Women need equivalence, not equality, Erdogan told a room packed with members of a women’s group. That notion includes fair and equal treatment before the law while recognizing the genders as having different societal roles and capabilities, he said. A leader who describes himself as an observant Muslim and a conservative politician, Erdogan often cited Islam to explain his views on the place of women in Turkish society.

“You can’t make women equal to men. Why? Because their natural dispositions are different," he said. “Our religion upheld a status for women: motherhood."

In Turkey’s patriarchal culture, Erdogan’s comments on women’s traditional roles as homemakers have wide reach. His speech was interrupted numerous times by applause from the audience, most of them members of the Women and Democracy Association, a non-governmental group whose board includes his daughter Sumeyye Erdogan.

Female participation in the Turkish work force, at 31%, is about half of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average and about the same as in Kuwait and Sudan. Turkey ranks 120th out of 136 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. The country was 105th in 2006, three years after Erdogan became prime minister. Bloomberg

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