Rukhmabai was the first practising female doctor in Colonial India, but she will always be remembered for her fight which led to Age of Consent Act in 1891
If you were to visit the Google’s website today, you will be able to see the Google celebrating the birthday of a revolutionary with a doodle. Rukhmabai did things that were ages ahead of its time. Rukhmabai was born on November 22 in 1864 and was the first practising female doctor in Colonial India. But she will truly be remembered for her legal case that made possible the landmark Age of Consent Act of 1891. In the 1800s, Indian women didn’t have much of rights but a strong and determined Rukhmabai made the unthinkable happen. Rukhmabai was married off at the young age of 11. As a young bride at such a tender age, Rukhmabai contested her husband’s claim to conjugal rights. This led to the iconic court case which evidently formulated in Age of Consent Act in 1891.
Rukhmabai was married at a young age of 11 and her husband, Dadaji Bhikaji was nineteen years old. Even her being married, Rukhmabai and her husband never lived together. Rukhmabai continued her education and lived apart from her husband for several years. During the time they were separated, her husband never contacted his ‘wife’. Dadaji later got in touch with Rukhmabai, perhaps interested in the money she had inherited after her mother passed away. She refused to go, continued to live with her step-father and pursued her education, going against the norms of society.
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Rukhmabai was ordered by the court to live with her husband or face a jail term for six months in March 1887. Subsequently, after many hearings, the marriage was affirmed by the court. Rukhmabai wrote to Queen Victoria about her situation. The Queen overruled the court’s verdict and dissolved the marriage. In July of 1888, Dadaji accepted monetary compensation of two thousand rupees to dissolve the marriage. Her case won the support of a number of people and when she expressed her wish to study medicine, a fund was raised for her to travel and study medicine at the London School of Medicine.
Rukhmabai went to England in 1889 to study medicine and returned to India as a qualified physician. She graduated, successfully completed 5 years degree course and worked in a women’s hospital in Surat.
The valour and determination of Rukhmabai who fought against the society’s constraint are highly respected. We pay our utmost respect to Rukhmabai and stature she made in the fight for women’s right.