Burrneshas, or Sworn Virgins, are a sector of the Balkan female population that chooses to avoid the oppressive restrictions placed upon their gender by living as men.
Photographer Jill Peters set out to photograph the little-known phenomenon, in which brave women transform themselves completely to preserve their honor.
Since the 15th century a number of Balkan tribes have followed an archaic code of law called the Kanun, which prohibits women from voting, driving, earning money or wearing pants. “The Kanun states that women are considered to be the property of their husbands,” Peters explained in an email to the Huffington Post.
To avoid a life of subservience and servitude, some women are willing to revoke their gender and relinquish their sexuality. By changing their clothes, cutting their hair, changing their names and even adopting a masculine swagger, women gain access to opportunities normally reserved for men. The final sacrifice is the vow of celibacy, making the promise to remain a virgin for life.
Over recent years Albanian women have managed to gain more independence, leaving as little as 30 burrneshas left, mostly residing in small villages. Yet those who are committed to the Sworn Virgin life don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. “A woman could become the president of Albania and they would still remain living as men,” Peters told Slate.
by Priscilla Frank
Source – The Huffington Post