Albania: The women who live as men | European Journal | DW | 27.03.2013
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European Journal

Albania: The women who live as men

It's an unusual tradition in Albania, and today it's dying out: the tradition of the sworn virgin. They are women who choose to live as men to escape the restrictions imposed on women in their patriarchal society.

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They call themselves burrnesha, and have sworn a vow of chastity. Most of them made the decision during puberty to switch gender roles and live as men, though physically they remain female. The tradition of the "man-woman" has its origins in an ancient code of honor common in Albania whereby families without a male successor could choose a girl to fill the role of patriarch instead.