Consider the case of Western Europe during the period 1450 – 1800. During this period, women across the world faced many restrictions and were treated differently than other sections of the society. In Great Britain, women below the age of 50 were not allowed to own any property and had to relinquish their position as head of the family if the son completed his professional education (Hecker, 97). Having control over women in the household was a matter of social pride for the male members. In contrast, women in many parts of Western Europe were far better placed by any standards. Women had the liberty to operate a business of their choice and could choose a husband. Moreover, a widow had the freedom to marry a man of her choice. While they never faced any segregation, women were nevertheless unable to practice professions including medicine and law (Charrad, 178).
Women began to campaign for equality and basic human rights since the early nineteenth century. They called for being given the right to education, vote, and law-making. Their gradual struggle over a period of 150 years has led to a significant change across many nations. Today, women’s suffrage is regarded as a basic human right by many countries. Perhaps the most important trend during this period is the emergence of Islamic feminism in the Arab and Muslim worlds at the same period. Feminist intellectuals like Tahrih and Qasim Amin denounced some of the widespread practices in Islamic society such as the ‘hijab’ (veil), polygamy and the ‘purdah’ system (segregation of men and women).