Istanbul: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday urged Turkish women to have at least three children, saying a woman’s life was “incomplete” if she failed to have offspring.
Erdogan’s comments were the latest in a series of controversial remarks aimed at encouraging women to help boost Turkey’s population, which had already risen exponentially in the last years.
The president emphasised he was a strong supporter of women having careers but emphasised that this should not be an “obstacle” to having children.
“Rejecting motherhood means giving up on humanity,” Erdogan said in a speech marking the opening of the new building of Turkey’s Women’s and Democracy Association (KADEM).
“I would recommend having at least three children,” added the president.
“The fact that a woman is attatched to her professional life should not prevent her from being a mother,” he added, saying that Turkey had taken “important steps” to support working mothers.
Erdogan had on Monday said that family planning and contraception were not for Muslim families, prompting fury among women’s activists.
In his speech Sunday he went on to add:
“A woman who says ‘because I am working I will not be a mother’ is actually denying her feminity.”
“A women who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete,” he added.
According to the statistics office, Turkey’s population rose to 78.741 million last year, a growth rate of around 1.3 percent. The population in 2000 was less than 68 million.
But Erdogan indicated he wanted more, saying Turkey is a country “with great goals” and to achieve them “every member of the nation should be mobilised.”
“Strong families lead to strong nations,” he said.
Erdogan has two daughters and two sons with his wife Emine.
His younger daughter Sumeyye, who last month married defence industrialist Selcuk Bayraktar in a high-profile wedding, is the deputy chairman of KADEM.
Erdogan, a pious Muslim, has repeatedly annoyed feminists and women’s activists with his comments on sex and family planning, once describing birth control as “treason”.
The composition of Turkey’s new cabinet under Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced last month also annoyed activists, with just one female minister, heading the family ministry, in the government.
But the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which Erdogan co-founded angrily rejects allegations of sexism and says it has done more than any other Turkish government to encourage women to work.