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In the remote mountains of northern Albania are villages where there are women who live and act like men. They have short hair, wear baggy pants, and have a male name. They drink and smoke in the company of men, carry guns, and take up manly livelihoods such as shepherds or truck drivers. But they are not transsexuals or cross-dressers. These women have chosen to lead a man’s life not to express their sexuality but to escape the oppressive dominance of the patriarchal system. They are called sworn virgins or burrnesha.

However, such a privilege comes at a cost. Each sworn virgin has taken a vow of lifelong virginity and chastity—a sacrifice none of these women have ever regretted making.

sworn-virgins

Photo credit: Jill Peters

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