Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that women are not equal to men and accused feminists of not understanding the special status that Islam attributes to mothers.
Addressing a meeting in Istanbul on women and justice, Mr Erdogan said men and women are created differently, that women cannot be expected to undertake the same work as men, and that mothers enjoy a high position that only they can reach.
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," Mr Erdogan said.
"It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different."
Mr Erdogan added: "Motherhood is the highest position . . . You cannot explain this to feminists. They don't accept motherhood. They have no such concern."
Lawyer and women's rights activist Hulya Gulbahar said Mr Erdogan's comments were in violation of Turkey's constitution, Turkish laws and international conventions on gender equality and did not help efforts to stem high incidences of violence against women in Turkey.
Ms Gulbahar said: "Such comments by state officials which disregard equality between men and women play an important role in the rise of violence against women. Such comments aim to make women's presence in public life - from politics to arts, from science to sports - debatable."
Mr Erdogan, a devout Muslim, often courts controversy with divisive public comments. He has previously angered women's groups by stating women should bear at least three children and by attempting to outlaw abortion and adultery.