They are called « burneshe » – the Balkans’ last « sworn virgins ». Women who opted to live as men to escape the domination of a patriarchal system, at the cost of taking a vow of virginity and chastity.

This practice, which is dying out, is still little understood. It mainly occurs in Albania but reaches north into Montenegro and Kosovo. The term is derived from burra, the Albanian for « man ». The motives for such a choice are usually exclusively social, not prompted by sexuality or any physical changes.

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