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Minister agrees with diplomat's alleged victim

The minister responsible for reducing sexual violence accepts there is a rape culture in New Zealand.

Malaysian diplomat Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail Source: Breakfast

That puts Social Development Minister Paula Bennett in step with the woman at the centre of the alleged case of sexual assault by a Malaysian diplomat in Wellington.

The 22-year-old woman, Tania Billingsley, wants Foreign Minister Murray McCully to resign over his handling of the case.

Ms Bennett accepts her Government failed the woman who alleges 38-year-old Malaysian diplomat Muhammad Ismail tried to rape her.

"Could things have been handled differently? We're the first ones that have said yes it should have been. But for her I feel incredibly sad that the incident has happened in the beginning. And that's where most of her hurt and anger is," Ms Bennett says.

Ms Billingsley calls the mishandling of her case an example of New Zealand's rape culture.

"It's like a society and kind of a culture we have within that kind of normalises and trivilaises and even in subtle and obvious ways condones rape and sexual violence," she told TV3's 3rd Degree.

Ms Bennett says there are some elements of this evident.

"And you can see it in the language that is used by some people. You can certainly see it in pretty much a pub or a nightclub in New Zealand on most weekends to be quite frank. So we have a lot of education to do there, I think" she says.

But Ms Billingsley is focused on Murray McCully and his ministry as the Foreign Minister failed to follow up on Ismail's alleged attack, despite being notified about it in May.

And with Mr McCully's eye off the ball, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade let the Malaysian defence assistant go home under diplomatic immunity.

"I think he should resign," Ms Billingsley said.

Ms Bennett said: "If she's standing up and she's got an opinion and good on her for voicing it, I'm not prepared though to wade in and have an opinion on her opinion."

Mr McCully is out of the country and not commenting further.

The ministry last night delivered a personal apology to Tania Billingsley.

But it's no clearer when her alleged attacker will return to New Zealand.

Paula Bennett has admitted there is a rape culture within New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS


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