Academician and women’s rights activist Mary Roy passed away in Kerala’s Kottayam on Thursday. The activist was the mother of the renowned Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy. She is survived by her two children, daughter Arundhati Roy and son Lalit Roy.
She was the founder and director of Pallikoodam School, which was formerly known as Corpus Christi High School, located in Kalathilpady, a suburb of Kottayam town in Kerala.
She is known for winning a Supreme Court lawsuit in 1986 against the gender-biased inheritance law, famously dubbed the ‘Mary Roy Case,’ which was prevalent within the Syrian Christian community in Kerala. The judgement ensured equal rights for Syrian Christian women as with their male siblings in their ancestral property.
Mary Roy was born in 1933 to an entomologist P.V. Isaac. She did her schooling at Jesus and Mary Convent in Delhi and graduated from Queen’s Mary College in Chennai. Her grandfather John Kuriyan established the first school in the Kottayam district – Rao Bahadur John Kuriyan School.
While working as a secretary for a company in Calcutta, she met her husband Rajib Roy. After experiencing marital problems, she returned to her father’s home in Ooty with her two kids. She eventually engaged in court conflict with her elder brother George Isaac over the ownership of this property.
What was the court case about?
Travancore Succession Act of 1916 says that the women of Mary Roy’s Syrian Christian community could not inherit property. In 1960, she filed a case against her elder brother after her father’s demise to gain equal access to the inheritance left to them. The case was considered a landmark case for the reason it fought for equal property rights for Syrian Christian women. After eight years of a long struggle, she finally received the property.