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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)


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