Sworn virgins: Women Who Live as Men in Albania (9 photo)

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“Sworn virgins” (burrneshas in Albanian) are Albanian women who decide to ignore their female identity and live as men in the Balkans. The decision to live as men is more related to gender roles in the Albanian culture rather than a statement of sexuality; these women live their lives appearing as men. Sworn virgins have existed for centuries. According to tradition dating back to the 15th century developed out of the Kanun, a tribal code of law, tribal clans from the Balkans considered families without a male presence as pariahs. When blood feuds decimated all the men in a family, the only way to salvage their honor was for a woman to become the patriarch of the clan and start acting like a man.

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