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Saudi Arabia: Women Not Allowed to Perform Notary Duties

(Nov. 14, 2014) Notaries public in Saudi Arabia are public employees under the Ministry of Justice, in accordance with article 73 and subsequent articles of the Judiciary Law issued by Royal Decree No. M/78 of 2007 (1428 Hijri). (Text of the Law [in Arabic] (Sept. 2, 2007), Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers website).

On November 5, 2014, pursuant to article 74 of the Law, the Minister of Justice issued an order regulating the granting of licenses to attorneys and university graduates who meet specified requirements to perform certain notary duties. Being a male applicant is not one of the qualifications or requirements for being a notary mentioned in the order. (Text of the Order [in Arabic] (Nov. 5, 2014), Saudi Ministry of Justice website.) However, a few days after issuing the order, the Ministry of Justice declared that women attorneys are not permitted to obtain licenses to perform notarial duties because such duties are provided for in the Judiciary Law and are therefore part of the general competency requirements for judges; under Sharia law, women are not qualified to become judges.

Some members of the judiciary appear to disagree with this interpretation. For example, Judge Issa al-Gaith stated in the al-Hayat newspaper that notary duties are not a part of judicial competency requirements and there is no legal prohibition under Sharia law against women performing such duties. (“Justice”: “Notary Licenses” Are Within the General Judicial Competency for Which Women Are Not Eligible [in Arabic], AL HAYAT (Nov. 11, 2014).)