How Age of Consent For Sexual Intercourse In India Is Tied To The Story Of A Child Bride; Why Rukhmabai Preferred Jail Over Husband

Today women are still fighting for their rights and slowly succeeding in making their voices heard. However, more than 100 years ago lived a woman who refused to bend to social pressure in order to pursue her dream to become a doctor and in a way had set the ball rolling for today’s generation. Her name was Rukhmabai.

Born in 1864 under British Raj, she went on to become the first practicing female physician in India. But what went through to live her dream speaks of the iron will she had. When 19-year-old Dadaji Bhikaji married this 11-year-old in 1975, he never imagined that she would drag him into one of the most publicised cases in Bombay which even drew a response from Queen Victoria. Today on her 153rd birth anniversary, Google has honoured her struggle and contributions by dedicating a doodle to her.

Rukhmabai’s mother was a widowed single mother, who went on to take Dr. Sakharam Arjun as her second husband. He was an eminent physician and believed in social reforms. With his support, Rukhmabai studied hard. Giving in to social pressure her mother got her married at the age of 11. As was custom, she stayed with her parents for 12 years, all the while growing cultured and wise. She also heard about her husband’s misdemeanors and closed frame of mind.

So, when her husband finally demanded that she come and live with him so that he could claim his marriage rights as a husband, she refused to go.

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Angered by Rukhmabai’s refusal, Dadaji filed a case against her after 12 years of marriage seeking so that she would be forced to live with him directed by a court order order. He won the case quite easily.


Rakhmabai still refused to comply, saying that she would not follow through with a custom she had been subjected to when she was too young to grant her consent. Following this the court gave her a choice: she could go live with her husband or serve 6 months in prison. Determined, she opted for the imprisonment.

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