Feb 102013

A Sworn Virgin Now a Man

‘Sworn Virgins’ of Albania are from an era when it was necessary for a women to ‘become a men.’ To understand this custom, it is necessary to investigate the Kanun, a code of Law that goes back five centuries.

Probably mistake her today for a lesbian?

The Kanun states that women are considered to be the property of their husbands. The freedom to vote, drive, conduct business, earn money, drink, smoke, swear, own a gun or wear pants was traditionally the exclusive right of men. Young girls were commonly forced into arranged marriages, often with much older men in distant villages. If a husband died, or was killed in a blood feud, the widow could not inherit his property or become the head of the household.  If the woman had no sons, then a male relative (and his family) would move in, and take over her property. By becoming ‘a man’ in a sworn ceremony, a widow or her sister could become the patriarch of the family.  The woman, now a man, would stop another male from taking the farm or property. The vow invoked chastity and could not be undone.

Another incentive to ‘ becoming a man,’ was that the ‘sworn virgin’ could take a job to bring in money to a poverty stricken family. Those women learned to adopt a male swagger and seek the company of men. Albania is mostly a Muslim country. The ‘Sworn Virgin’ has been practised for centuries by Muslims and Christians. It is written that ‘becoming a man’ was a social necessity and not a sexual choice.  However, since homosexuality is taboo in Albania, there must have been instances when a lesbian was quite happy to escape marriage.

It should be added, that Albania is striving to become a modern European country. For many years, it followed a Stalinist Communist system of government, which kept it behind Europe.  Today, the ‘Sworn Virgin’ custom  is slowly dying out.



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