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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday condemned remarks by Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Seiichi Ota, who said that gang raping women by youngsters is evidence of their virility.

Ota, former head of the Management and Coordination Agency, reportedly told a seminar in Kagoshima Prefecture on Thursday that young men are becoming weak and lack the courage to propose marriage.

“Those who gang rape are better off because they have virility. They are closer to normal,” Ota was quoted as saying in media reports on the seminar, which dealt with the nation’s declining birthrate.

Ota made the statement as participants were discussing the arrest last week of five university students for allegedly gang raping a 20-year-old female student after a party.

“Of course, he should be condemned,” Koizumi told reporters. “Rape is an unforgivable, cruel crime, and it has nothing to do with virility.”

LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki issued a stern rebuke, warning Ota that remarks by Diet members have an enormous social impact.

Ota told reporters at LDP headquarters he was “deeply sorry” his remarks had offended not only the victim but also other women.

He later told a news conference that he was aware that his remarks were “a fatal mistake.” To make amends, he said he will dedicate himself to actively tackling rape-related issues.

Also Friday, a group of female lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet held a news conference to lambaste Ota and urge him to issue a public apology.

“It is an unacceptable remark because it not only abuses the human rights of women but also justifies a serious crime,” said Mizuho Fukushima, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party. Fukushima is also a lawyer with expertise in gender issues.

Fukushima said she feels that the mind-set of some male Diet members is 20 to 30 years behind the times.

“I seriously believe that there should be training sessions in the Diet against sexual harassment,” she said. Information from Kyodo added

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