Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter is facing scrutiny after failing to condemn a characterisation of indecent assault as "pinching somebody else's bottom".
Justice Minister Andrew Little offered "pinching the bottom of a prison officer" as an example of a non-violent assault in the House on Thursday last week.
Mr Little said the offence did not warrant the seven-year sentence the Three Strikes law mandates. That was the same view the judge took in the case, saying if it weren't the law, the sentence might have been 12 months.
The offender ended up with a seven-year sentence, but with the allowance for parole after a third of the sentence is served.
This week, Ms Genter stood by Mr Little as she faced a line of stern questioning from National's Paula Bennett, saying she would not speak to him or ask him to apologise for his description of the assault as "non-violent" and "pinching the bottom".
When Ms Bennett asked Ms Genter whether the characterisation "trivialised" the assault, Ms Genter dodged the question.
"As the Minister of Justice has said today and on previous days, indecent assault - including the case the member is referring to - is insidious and unacceptable. I agree with him," she said.
Ms Genter said there is a problem with the underreporting of cases of indecent assault, but she said the Three Strikes law makes it harder for survivors to come forward and for people to be convicted.
When asked whether she would speak to the Minister of Justice and whether she will ask him to apologise, Ms Genter repeated she agrees with the Minister of Justice when he said the case was "insidious and unacceptable".
"I won't ask the Minister of Justice to apologise for raising issues about our broken criminal justice system," she said.
Ms Genter told Newshub the National Party are "playing political games around a really serious issue," saying Mr Little's comments were taken out of context.
"It's making it really difficult to address the substance of what the Minister of Justice was getting at when he described that."
"The fundamental issue is around the extreme sentencing that is required under the Three Strikes law, and that extreme sentencing doesn't do anything to help survivors of sexual violence."
She said Mr Little chose an "unfortunate example" of a non-violent crime.
Sentencing notes for the indecent assault describe 25-year-old Raven Casey Campbell grabbing a corrections officer's buttock for 1 to 2 seconds, before making no attempt to move away when asked. The offender grabbed the gate as the guard was trying to leave, asking the officer to talk.
The officer later said she felt "angry, frustrated and totally degraded."
The offender was described as having limited support in the community.