Rukhmabai: The First Indian Woman To Practice Medicine
In an era when women hardly had the freedom to pursue what they wanted, Rukhmabai created history by becoming the first Indian woman to practice medicine. But education wasn’t the only aspect where Rukhmabai challenged the norms of patriarchy, as she refused to acknowledge a marriage that was fixed without her consent and also called out for the abolition of Purdah system.
Why We Should Know Rukhmabai
Not only was Rukhmabai India’s first woman doctor to practice medicine, but she also championed women’s rights. She fought against the oppressive, patriarchal society. As a child-bride, she refused to marry the man her family wanted her to. This led to one of the most controversial and famous legal cases. The case raised several important social issues. Ultimately, her actions and protest led to the Age of Consent Act in 1891.
In 1887 Justice Farran, ordered Rukhmabai to “go live with her husband or face six months of imprisonment” citing interpretation of Hindu laws. To this, Rukhmabai responded that she would rather face imprisonment than obey the verdict.
What Makes Her A Badass
Rukhmabai’s court case led to the rise of feminist consciousness and discussion on consent in both India and abroad. For the first time, people started debating the evils of child marriage. This brave woman led to the Age of Consent Act being implemented in the nation. When she lost the case to her husband and was asked to go and live with him, she opted to go to jail rather than back down. The verdict was later reverted by Queen Victoria herself, after which she went on to study medicine in London. She became the first Indian woman to study and practice medicine. She also established the Red Cross Society at Rajkot.
Biggest Battles She Fought
In 1929, Rukhmabai published a pamphlet titled Purdah. Therein, she wrote about the evils of the Purdah system in society.
Rukhmabai was married off to Dadaji Bhikaji, when she was only 11 years old. However, she wanted to continue studying. So, she refused to live with her husband. The issue was brought to the court by Rukhmabai’s husband after seven years who filed a case seeking “restitution of conjugal rights” in the Bombay High Court. It is now known to be one of the most publicised court cases in Indian history. A child-bride refusing to stay with her husband was something India hadn’t heard of before. The case dragged on for three years and in 1887 Justice Farran, ordered Rukhmabai to “go live with her husband or face six months of imprisonment” citing interpretation of Hindu laws. To this, Rukhmabai responded that she would rather face imprisonment than obey the verdict.This resulted in further upheaval and social debate. Ultimately, she appealed to Queen Victoria who overruled the court verdict and dissolved the marriage.
Things She Said
In 1929, Rukhmabai published a pamphlet titled Purdah. Therein, she wrote about the evils of the Purdah system in society. Through her writing, she made arguments against it and why it should be eliminated. She also argued that young widows were being robbed of the chance to contribute actively to Indian society.
Life Lessons We Can Learn From Her
Rukhmabai was a fierce, ambitious as well as a brave woman. Although not even her family was willing to support her, she still fought against oppressive laws and established her identity. Rukhmabai also firmly said that if a woman is not willing to live with her husband, she cannot be forced to do so. Through her personal struggles, she changed the way the issue of child-marriage was viewed forever and paved the way for more Indian girls to pursue careers in the field of medicine.
Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV