The Sworn Virgins of Albania

Albania's laws and culture are so restrictive for women that "Sworn Virgins" find it easier to just live as men. They live celibate lives, but in return they have the freedom to do as they please. Many of them were assigned this role as children, and were raised as boys.  

As an alternative, becoming a  Sworn Virgin, or 'burnesha" elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population. In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name.  Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature. Most importantly of all, she took a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life. She became a "he". This practice continues today but as modernization inches toward the small villages nestled in the Alps , this archaic tradition is increasingly seen as obsolete. Only a few aging Sworn Virgins remain. The number of new cases are scant and tend to be considered less authentic by younger generations.

Photographer Jill Peters photographed some of the Sworn Virgins and is collaborating on a documentary about them. See more pictures at her site. Link -via Flavorwire

(Image credit: Jill Peters)

Newest 4
Newest 4 Comments

I guess I'm looking at it from an old fashioned perspective. Most societies think women want to marry and have a family. These women have given that up and I'm not sure what they are getting in return. But at least they have a choice, which is more than women have in many countries.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I'm not Albanian, but I don't understand what's confusing about it.

If you're a woman who doesn't want to get married, living in a society that withholds rights from you if you don't get married, but there was a loophole that would offer you full rights then why wouldn't you take it? It has the added bonus of making you less likely to be a target of rape, a thing most women living alone would have to worry about.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Is this part of a religious order? Is this a job you get paid for? Is it like being a nun or a monk? Otherwise I don't understand the point. Any Albanians out there to enlighten the rest of us?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Sworn Virgins of Albania"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More