Several female New Zealand members of parliament were kicked out of a meeting on Wednesday for “flouting the rules,” after revealing they were victims of sexual assault.

During that session, various MPs were debating what to do with New Zealand citizens and convicted criminals (mostly of low-level crimes like marijuana supply and shoplifting) who are being detained on Christmas Island after Australia introduced a law retroactively canceling their visas.

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When Green and Labour MPs asked what would become of the detainees, prime minister John Key grew irate and accused them of “backing the rapists.”

“Some of the [detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers,” he said. “These are the people that the Labour party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here.”

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“If you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead my son, but we’ll defend New Zealanders.”

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According to The Guardian, three-quarters of Labour MPs walked out of the session after Key’s remarks.

Later, the Green Party’s Metiria Turei said, “As a victim of sexual assault, I take personal offense at the prime minister’s comments, and ask that you require him to withdraw and apologize.”

The Guardian reports:

Her comments were echoed by Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who was told by the Speaker to stop and sit back down.

When other female MPs, including Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta, Clare Curran and Megan Woods, along with Green MP Marama Davidson repeated the call for Key to apologise with reference to their own assaults, [speaker David Carter] ordered them to stop, saying they were “flouting the rules” by claiming to make points of order.

Despite the warning, the women continued to speak until Carter had them removed from the House. At least eight others, including four men, joined them.

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Carter now says he hadn’t heard Key’s comments when he ordered the women to leave.

“He jokes about sexual violence, he will use sexual violence as a political tool to distract from his own failings, he shows no leadership on the serious issue in New Zealand of sexual violence, and the Speaker will support him in that failure,” said Turei in an interview with Radio New Zealand. “We don’t need a Prime Minister using rape as a political tool to distract from serious issues.”


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

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Image of New Zealand Parliament via Getty.