FILE PHOTO. Saudi women walks past an advertisement for Glowork exhibition in Riyadh. © Faisal Nasser / Reuters

The first 12 women to enter Saudi Arabia’s legal field will join an army of some 13,000 male private notaries, the Justice Ministry said, as cited by local media.

The women can now issue and cancel powers of attorney, as well as certify documents during transfer of property rights or establishing companies. The private notarization service was introduced in Saudi Arabia last February, with some 13,000 individuals obtaining notary licenses since then.

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“Since this is the first time women pursue and accept this profession, we are excited about this new challenge and willing to show our hard work and commitment,” a recently licensed woman said, as quoted by Saudi media.

The Justice Ministry said it would observe the work of the newly-licensed notaries and would likely grant more licenses to women in the future.

The announcement came shortly after Riyadh’s landmark decision to allow women to drive. The road to provide females with this right proved to be quite bumpy, since as recently as 2016 Saudi authorities stated they weren’t “ready” to do so. Nevertheless, the decision to allow females behind the wheel finally came into effect late in June.

While the move to allow females to become private notaries is another step to granting more rights to women, Saudi Arabia is still quite far from gender equality. Women are still subjects to strict so-called “guardianship” system, and they require a permission of the closest male relative to make such basic decisions as renewing passports, enrolling into educational institutions and even undergoing certain medical procedures.

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