Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reported to have said that women and men are not equalReuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended himself against criticism that he is sexist by claiming he has been an advocate of women's rights during his political career.

The Turkish leader blamed the media for misinterpreting and distorting his controversial comments on equality of the sexes.

"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. Equivalence rather than equality is what women need. That's what I said," Erdogan said.

"Nobody can slander me or my colleagues when it is obvious how I have personally defended women's movement throughout my 40-year political career," he added.

He also said the media was guilty of "lacking morals" in their reporting and alleged distortion of his comments.

He told journalists who he believed had defamed him to "look themselves in the mirror while it is obvious how I emboldened the women's movement within the political party I was affiliated with", in reference to the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) in Turkey.

He was originally reported as telling a female audience in Istanbul that women are "too delicate" for men's jobs.

"Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women [in society]: motherhood," AFP reported. "You cannot explain this to feminists because they don't accept the concept of motherhood."

"Their characters, habits and physiques are different," he said. "You cannot get women to do every kind of work men can do, as in Communist regimes.

"You cannot tell them to go out and dig the soil. This is against their delicate nature."

Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are no strangers to sexist and degrading comments regarding women.

The president once claimed that every Turkish woman should have three children and in July, one of his ministers even went as far as saying that women should not laugh in public.