Sworn virgins have been existing for over six hundred years in Albania – it is a globally unique tradition. In the case of a family having no male offspring, a female family member would be obliged to take over the head function. Often girls had already become a Sworn virgin in their childhood and had to live in absolute abstinence, forgoing the idea of a partner and children. Once the decision was made there was no way back. The Sworn virgins had all the rights and duties of a man. Recognized and accepted by society a Sworn virgin was then able to move freely in public, work and carry a gun for self-defense. Protecting the family has always been the highest priority in Albania. The Sworn virgin gained something, other women didn`t have: a voice in society.

 

 

Becoming a Sworn virgin is one of the oldest and most extraordinary traditions in the country. One could say, that it is an intangible world heritage. It says so much about the Albanian mentality, as well as about the position of the woman. It tells something about the human struggle for survival, about deep, patriarchal structures that we also are exposed to in the Western world, as we now see more and more through current events and movements. We learn something about what happens when a state doesn’t take care of its citizens. The gender debate is set against a historical background in the face of highly topical events. Sworn virgins reflect how powerful our decisions are, since we can decide who we want to be.