Prime Minister John Key says he does not need to apologise to women MPs about his comments on rape because he is a strong advocate for victims of crime.

Mr Key also said abuse had been "hurled at him" this week by people who were standing up for criminals.

Opposition MPs staged a walk-out yesterday in Parliament in response to Mr Key's accusation on Tuesday that Labour and Green MPs were supporting rapists, murderers and child molesters at an Australian detention centre.

Several women MPs also revealed for the first time that they had been sexually assaulted and said they were personally offended by the Prime Minister's remarks.

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Mr Key remained unrepentant today.

Speaking to reporters in Christchurch, he said: "The comments and abuse that's been hurled at me, not a single one of those has been about a victim or alternatively about New Zealanders.

"I am actually the person standing up for victims of crime. I am certainly the person who has been standing up for New Zealanders to make sure that they are protected."

He said the Opposition's advocacy, on the other hand, had focused solely on criminals.

"That was the point I was making on Tuesday and that is correct."

Asked about the international media response to the women MPs' protest, Mr Key said stories received global coverage very easily in the digital age.

"To be blunt, you can look on a website for any story large or small, and they go around the world," he told reporters.

The Prime Minister said his record on advocating for victims would stand up on the international stage.

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Labour Party corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said Mr Key was "showing ... that he has got no backbone".

He told reporters at Parliament this afternoon: "If it's fine for him to hurl abuse in the debating chamber with the full protection of the Speaker, it's fine for me as a Maori to do it the Maori way which is ... face-to-face.

"Maoris will understand but the Prime Minister obviously doesn't."

Mr Davis confronted Mr Key outside the debating chamber on Tuesday, accusing him of being "gutless".

The Labour MP was asked about the Prime Minister's comment that Labour was only advocating for criminals, not victims.

"No one ever said they were angels," he said, referring to detainees on Christmas Island.

"But what I'm talking about is human rights abuses. And human rights abuses show no bias."

A mass protest by women MPs in the Labour and Green parties has been reported by international media.
A mass protest by women MPs in the Labour and Green parties has been reported by international media.

Kiwi politicians hit international headlines today, after a number of female MPs revealed their history of sexual abuse in protest against Mr Key saying Labour "backed rapists".

MPs on the Opposition side revolted after Speaker David Carter ruled that Mr Key did not need to apologise for his remarks.

The Prime Minister remained defiant, pointing to newly released offence statistics to back his accusation that the Labour Party was supporting rapists, murderers and other criminals on Christmas Island detention centre.

Read more:
The MPs who stood up to their abusers ...

It prompted a mass protest by women MPs in the Labour and Green parties - four of whom revealed that they had personally been abused - on Wednesday.

And the spat has been reported by international media, including The Guardian, NBC, Time, The Telegraph, The Independent and Vice.

NBC reported a "stream of female lawmakers were booted out" during the session after the speaker said their sexual abuse disclosures were out of order, while The Guardian posted a photo of the MPS with the headline "New Zealand female MPs thrown out of parliament after disclosing sexual assaults".

The Telegraph headlined "Female New Zealand MPs walk out of parliament protesting prime minster who accused them of protecting' rapists."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei unsuccessfully sought an apology from Mr Key, saying that as a victim of an assault she was offended by his comments.

She later said she was once assaulted by a stranger in the back of a taxi but did not report the attack to police because she thought no one would believe her, she said.

Mrs Turei said she had chosen to disclose her assault because Mr Key had trivialised rape for political gain.

"There's a point at which you have to disclose some details to genuinely represent the people who sent us here," she said.

Green Party social affairs spokeswoman Jan Logie and Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty also revealed they had been sexually assaulted or abused in the past.

The MPs said their treatment in Parliament yesterday - being cut off by the Speaker, thrown out or dismissed - reflected the treatment of abuse victims in New Zealand.