Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda on Thursday became the latest politician to come under fire for allegedly making discriminatory remarks toward women.

The latest issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun carries what is described as an off-the-record talk with reporters on June 27 in which Fukuda appeared to defend a gang rape allegedly perpetrated by Tokyo college students.

Fukuda is quoted as saying that given young women’s provocative style of dress, “there is room for leniency” for rapists as men are “black panthers.”

During a House of Councilors committee session the same day, Fukuda strongly denied the report, saying “I have never made a remark to defend rape.”

But Tomiko Okazaki of the Democratic Party of Japan, who questioned Fukuda during the session, claimed she met “several reporters” who attended the meeting and confirmed that the magazine accurately quoted Fukuda.

According to the weekly, the conversation started when the government’s top spokesman was questioned about the comments made by Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Seiichi Ota during a June 26 gathering in Kagoshima.

At the gathering, held to discuss issues related to Japan’s declining birth rate, Ota reportedly said gang rape is a sign of virility. He was apparently trying to make a favorable comparison to men who put off marriage.

Ota was forced to apologize the next day.

“Maybe Mr. Ota doesn’t know that gang rape is a crime,” Fukuda allegedly told reporters. “But some women really dress as if to say, ‘Please do it,’ don’t they?” the magazine quoted him as saying.

Fukuda’s remarks constitute the fourth alleged case of sexually discriminatory words or actions by well-known lawmakers that have surfaced in the past two weeks.

During the same seminar at which Ota made his remarks, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori reportedly asked why women who have not given birth should be eligible for government welfare benefits.

Last week, Upper House member Hideyo Fudesaka, who served as policy chief of the Japanese Communist Party, stepped down after admitting he sexually harassed a woman during a party in late May.

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