Educator and women’s rights activist, Mary Roy has passed her at the age of 89. Roy founded the Pallikkoodam School in 1961, formerly known as Corpus Christi High School, located in Kottayam. She, however, stopped being an active part of the school management since last year due to health issues.
She was born to a Syrian Christian family, in 1933, and was the daughter of entomologist PV Isaac. Mary Roy did her schooling from Delhi’s Jesus Mary Convent and graduated from the Queen’s Mary College in Chennai. In 1960, Roy sued her brother George Isaac to get equal access to the ancestral property of her late father. The legal battle lasted for 39 long years but finally settled in favour of Mary Roy in 2009.
The activist is known for her petition in the Supreme Court against the Travancore Christian Succession Act of 1916, which did not give equal rights to Syrian Christian women over property. She won the lawsuit in 1986. Following Roy’s petition against the gender biased inheritance law, the top court passed a judgment giving the Syrian Christian women equal rights over property, as their male siblings.
Until the SC order, Christian women from the Travancore were earlier governed by the Travancore-Kochi Christian Succession Act, 1916, that stated a daughter was eligible for only a quarter of the son’s share or Rs 5,000, whichever was less, after the father died. While the widow was entitled just to maintenance. Although the top court had ruled the case in her favour in February 1986, it is 2009, that she got the final verdict, which was a decree from a Kottayam sub-court.
She is survived by her two children, writer Arundhati Roy, who won the Man Booker Prize in Fiction in 1997 for her book The God of Small Things, and son Lalit Roy. Mary Roy died after a brief illness on Thursday. Her husband is late Rajeeb Roy, whom she met while working as a secretary in a company in Kolkata.