Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 153rd birthday of Rukhmabai Raut, one of the first practicing doctors in colonial India. She was also an integral part of a landmark legal case which led to the enactment of the Age of Consent Act, 1891. Rukhmabai Raut was born on November 22, 1864. She herself was a child bride and was married off at the age of 11 to a nineteen-year-old groom Dadaji Bhikaji Raut. However, after her marriage, she stayed with her widowed mother Jayantibai who married Assistant Surgeon Sakharam Arjun More. Rukhmabai Raut declined to move to her husband Dadji Bhikaiji Raut’s home and was supported in her choice by her step-father. This led to a long legal battle from 1884 to 1888 between Rukhmabai Raut and Dadaji Bhikaji Raut. Today, on her 153rd birth anniversary Google has dedicated a doodle in her honour.

The court case was seeking “restitution of conjugal rights” and a judgment was passed by Justice Robert Hill Pinhey who found that restitution did not apply here as it was meant for consenting mature adults. He found no precedent in Hindu law and found fault with English law cases.  He declared that Rukhmabai Raut was married off in her “helpless infancy” and that he could not compel a young lady. Justice Robert Hill Pinhey retired after the case but the case came up once again for a retrial. There were huge outcries by some Hindu sections while some praised the decision. Native Opinion, an Anglo-Marathi weekly run by Vishwanath Narayan Mandlik supported Dadaji and came in strong condemnation of Pinhey’s judgment. The Mahratta, a Poona weekly run by Bal Gangadhar Tilak also supported Dadaji and said that Pinhey did not understand Hindu laws and wanted to seek reforms through violent means. V Shantaram: Google Celebrates the 116th Birthday of Noted Filmmaker With a Doodle

However, a series of articles written in Times of India under the pen-name of a Hindu Lady appeared which was later revealed to be Rukhmabai Raut. An appeal against the first case was sought on March 18, 1886, and it was upheld by Chief Justice Sir Charles Sargent and Justice Farran. Rukhmabai Raut was ordered to go live with her husband or face six months imprisonment. She bravely wrote back that she would rather have the maximum penalty than obey the unfavorable verdict. Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote in the Kesari that Rukhmabai’s defiance was a result of English education and declared that Hinduism was in danger. Google Birthday Surprise Spinner Celebrates 19 Years Of Search Engine: How To Play Some Of The Most Interesting Google Doodle Games

Rukhmabai Raut finally wrote to Queen Victoria who overruled the court and dissolved the marriage. A settlement was reached in July 1888 between Dadadji and Rukhmabai. Dadaji relinquished his claim on Rukhmabai and demanded a payment of two thousand rupees. Rukhmabai Raut after the dissolution of marriage and settlement of the court case went to England to study medicine at the London School of Medicine. She graduated successfully completing 5 years of education and came back to India to work in a women’s hospital in Surat. The publicity of this case brought into effect the Age of Consent Act, 1891 which outlawed child marriages across the British Empire. Anasuya Sarabhai Honoured With Google Doodle on Her 132nd Birthday

Dr Edith Pechey, suffrage activist Eva McLaren and Walter McLaren, Adelaide Manning and Shivajirao Holkar donated money for Rukhmabai for her education and supported her. Maharaj Shivajirao Holkar donated Rs 500 for Rukhmabai’s education fund because she “demonstrated the courage to intervene against traditions.” In 1904 Dadaji Bhikaji died and Rukhmabai Raut started wearing the white sari of widows.