The return of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, simply known as Lula, as president of Brazil is almost unbelievable. Never before in Brazil’s 34-year history of democracy has an incumbent president like Jair Bolsonaro been rejected. Nor have the Brazilians voted back to power someone like Lula who remained in jail for more than one and a half years. Both ways, the result is astonishing, though it conforms to the trend under which six of the seven largest countries in Latin America have Leftists at their helm. Bolsonaro’s defeat is not surprising as his four-year tenure saw the economy increasingly losing its steam. His inability to control Covid-19 that killed 700,000 Brazilians and the accelerated deforestation of the Amazon could not have but put a brake on his career. Yet, as he leaves the presidency, he leaves behind a sharply-divided polity.
For all his success, Lula cannot remain oblivious of the fact that he won only 50.9% of the votes against 49.1% that his rival won. While his jail term was cut short by the revelation that the prosecution and the judge were hand in glove with each other, the bitter truth is that he has not been declared innocent. The car wash scandal in which his name got besmirched will haunt him forever, unless he proves that his leadership is indispensable for the country. Bolsonaro behaved more like Donald Trump in the US who refused to concede defeat even when it was apparent to the whole world that Joe Biden had clearly and decisively won the race. He even thought of staging a Capitol Hill-like drama to avert the un-avertable. Like Trump, he had the support of the corporates, the Evangelicals and the carpet-baggers.
Lula’s first and foremost duty is to unite the people, divided as they are on petty political, economic and religious issues. One of the fears about him, amplified by Bolsonaro’s party, was that he was a closet Communist, for whom ideology mattered more than pragmatism. His first post-election speech shows that he is determined to rise above the political divide and is ready to stop the deforestation of the Amazon, home to tens of millions of species, some of them facing extinction. As president of Brazil, he can do much to save the rainforests for which the world will be grateful to him.
Make two-finger test a criminal act
It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs that the Supreme Court has to declare every now and then that the two-finger test should not be conducted on the victims of rape. On Monday, a Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli gave a strict warning to the medico-legal fraternity that the court took a dim view of such practices and it would not tolerate them. The Justice JS Verma Committee, which re-visited all the laws related to rape in the wake of the 2012 Nirbhaya case, had clearly stated that the test was not acceptable. A year later, the apex court banned all tests to check laxity of the vaginal muscles. In ordinary circumstances, the illegal and unscientific procedure should have ended. That it is still resorted to does not show the medico-legal system in a good light.
There has been considerable progress in the implementation of the rape laws. As recently as a few days ago, the court ruled that if a married woman became pregnant because of marital rape, she had the right to get the foetus aborted. In India, criminalisation of marital rape, which is the norm in most developed nations, is just a step away. The obnoxious test had its relevance when “habituated to sexual intercourse” was used against the woman to whittle down the charge of rape. Under the law of the land, a woman, even if she is a sex worker, cannot be raped. In other words, “habituated” is not a condition that absolves a person from the charge of rape. The test is an intrusion and it has a traumatising effect on the victim. Besides, it is not at all scientific. If any doctor conducts the test, he should be treated as a violator.