Saudi Arabia drew international plaudits last year when it lifted a longstanding ban on women driving.
The conservative Gulf kingdom also reversed a ban on sports for women and girls in public schools, and allowed women to watch football matches in stadiums.
But activists said the biggest impediment to women’s rights remained in effect.
Under what is known as the “male guardianship system”, a woman’s father, brother, husband or son has the authority to make critical decisions on her behalf.
She is required to obtain their approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.
“This is something that affects every Saudi woman and girl, from birth to death. They are essentially treated like minors,” the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy told the BBC.
However, UN experts expressed concern in February 2018 at the country’s failure to adopt a specific law prohibiting discrimination against women, as well as the absence of a legal definition of discrimination against women.
The male guardianship system, the experts noted, was “the key obstacle to women’s participation in society and economy”.