ALSO READBrief case: Mining companies' petitions dismissed Brief case: Importer has 'no-fault' liability to pay Brief case: Concessions expire after Electricity Act Kerala love jihad: I'm going to die get me out, victim Hadiya pleads in video Brief case: PSUs waste public money on litigation, says SC
Becoming the first practicing female doctor to being at the centre of a landmark legal case that led to the Age of Consent Act in 1891, Rukhmabai fought against all odds at a time when women in colonial India hardly had any rights to speak of. On this day in 1864, she was born to Janardhan Pandurang and 15-year-old Jayantibai, in a community of carpenters. Her mother was 17 when Pandurang died. Seven years later, she got remarried to a widower named Dr Sakharam Arjun, as stated in the Better India. Paying homage to Rukhmabai on her 153rd birth anniversary, Google remembered her in its doodle, showing a lady with a stethoscope around her neck, surrounded by women patients and nurses at the background. Rukhmabai was 11 when she was tied to a wedlock with 19-year-old Dadaji Bhikaji after her mother fell under the societal pressure. For the next seven years, she chose to live with her parents and pursued her education, a decision supported by her stepfather. In 1884, Bhikaji in a petition to the Bombay High Court, pleaded to restore the conjugal rights of the husband over his wife.
The court, in its judgement, directed Rukhmabai to join her husband or face six months of imprisonment. She chose the latter. A bold step which was unimaginable as per the conservative customs of the time.This initiated one of the most publicised court cases in Bombay. The case brought the issue of child marriage and the rights of women to the fore and garnered much attention in the British press in 19th century. After the series of court cases which resulted in the affirmation of the marriage, she wrote to Queen Victoria who overruled the court and dissolved the marriage. Following the settlement of the case, she wished to pursue medicine and fund was raised for her travel and study in London School of Medicine. Rukhmabai came back as a qualified physician and served for next 35 years till her retirement. It was after 68 years that the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955 was passed in independent India that recognised the consent of both husband and wife before entering into a conjugal relationship, reported Indian Express. Other than fighting for her case, she wrote numerous pieces against child marriage and the prevalent purdah system. Rukhmabai continued and remained active in social reforms till she breathed her last on September 25, 1955, at the age of 91.