Sworn Virgins

kaylarStarred Page By kaylar, 26th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

Women who, for hundreds of years, decided to live their lives as men

An Aside

I grew up in the Pliestocine, where girls were to wear dresses, play with dolls, and want to grow up to be Mommies.

I did not want to wear a dress, play with dolls or grow up to be a Mommy.

I wanted to ride my bike, climb trees, and play ball. To play ball I had a choice. Either be on the silly girl's team, where everyone stumbled and fumbled and giggled, or cut my hair, call myself Peter, and play on the boy's team.

I chose the latter, and was doing well, until about 13 years old when biology kicked in.

I became very active in Women's Rights, and did not let gender act as a barrier.

The world changed and there was no problem with women attending University, holding any kind of a job, from Construction worker to Prime Minister.

For me, for those of my generation who felt as I did, it wasn't 'penis envy' it had no sexual connotation, it was the difference between sitting on a chair and holding a doll or playing ball. Between racing down a ramp on a skate board and learning to walk in high heels.

For the women of the Balkans, the difference is between being an object, and being a human being.

How It began

In certain parts of the world, women have no rights. There is no way for them to get any rights. Hence, they may opt at a very young age, to become Sworn Virgins, and live as a man.

In the 15th century, Albania had a massive internecine war.
Many communities had no men.

As women's participation was so restricted, as all rights and responsibilities fell on males, families which needed a “man” to sell or buy land would have one of their daughters become a “virgjinesha,” or sworn virgin.

When I say No Rights...

Women can not vote. They can not drive. They can not conduct business. Women can not earn money, drink, smoke, swear, or own a gun. Women can not wear pants.

In fact, women can not do anything except be forced into arranged marriages with much older men in distant villages.

In Practice

As an alternative, a woman could become a Sworn Virgin.
This elevated her to the status of a man.

She gained all the rights and privileges of a man.

She would cut her hair, wear men's clothing and often change her name. She would behave a man. Walking, talking, gesturing as a man.

What she to do is take a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life.
She would became a “he” and for the rest of her life she be recognised as a man.

An example

Qamile Stema took a vow of Celibacy and became a Sworn Virgin.
She cut her hair, dressd as a man, and could actually leave the house on her own.

She moved about freely, and could do anything, often she would join men and chop wood. She could own a gun, which she carried everywhere.

She would sit with the men at wedding parties.

In early days, she would speak to women and they would recoil, because Qamile was now a man.

No surgery, no hormone treatment, no psycho-analysis, no labelling as 'trans-gender.' Qamile was a man as far as her society saw it.


It is unknown how many Sworn virgins exist today.
They are found across the Balkans in remote communities.

Although their numbers are decreasing as women gain rights as women, there are still some left and some new recruits.

It has nothing to do with sexuality; it has to do with Power.


Albania, Celibacy, Gender, Sex, Virgin

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author avatar kaylar
I am passionate about history, culture, current events, science and law

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
26th Sep 2013 (#)

I would rather be as feminine as can be with my spirit showing strength of a man. In other words, the best of both worlds with spoiling and endangering my beauty and life like they do.
I don't drink, smoke or skirt or pant case as these are not becoming of who and what I am.

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author avatar M G Singh
26th Sep 2013 (#)

Interesting post

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
26th Sep 2013 (#)

Queen Elizabeth I acted and behaved as a man, calling herself a "prince." There are many examples of women who have chosen to exist as men in order to be free. But the Balkan tradition was one I had not heard of: if a woman was caught impersonating a man, she could be imprisoned or killed. In the US, the battle for equality continues. Hasten the day where all people can live with equal rights and be who they are!

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author avatar kaylar
26th Sep 2013 (#)

I also understand in Afghanistan, a girl under puberty can live as a boy until it isn't possible because the rules of society are such...
Girls can't do this/that/the next thing.
This is an example of having a 'rule' writ in stone which requires virtual insanity to get around.
It is like being at a school which has it that "No school day ends before 3 pm save on Friday when the day can end at Noon"

So they call Tuesday Friday and the day can end at 12.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
26th Sep 2013 (#)

Good Afternoon, Kaylar. What an interesting article. It is genuinely sad to me how many women are treated in other countries. This is not to say that treatment is where it should be in the US, however, many of us have seen differences. At 66, I know fighting for women's rights in the 1970's was the correct thing to do. My daughters and grand daughters enjoy freedoms because of those times. ~Marilyn

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author avatar kaylar
26th Sep 2013 (#)

One of the strange things is that the girls who grew up in the 70s have no idea what existed before and they take their rights for granted.

We really need a consciousness raising...esp. when I see girls in those idiotic gladiator shoes, tight skirts and artificial boobs

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
27th Sep 2013 (#)

most interesting...

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author avatar kaylar
27th Sep 2013 (#)

I always try to find some topic which isn't well known

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
27th Sep 2013 (#)

This is a very good look at an aspect of culture that most people have never encountered. A little sad really though when you get right down to the "why" of everything, she gives up a lot to get a lot more...

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author avatar kaylar
27th Sep 2013 (#)

In these societies, where women are virtually non-existent as humans, she isn't losing anything.
'Love' as you know it, is a Western concept.
Marriage is often between a very young girl, 8 or 9 and a man of 40 or so who sees her as a sexual recepticle.

Her children are raised usually by his female relatives, and she means nothing to anyone.

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author avatar Mike Robbers
27th Sep 2013 (#)

Nice and interesting read, kaylar.

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author avatar kaylar
27th Sep 2013 (#)

thanks Mike

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