Sworn Virgins : News Photo
Sworn Virgins : News Photo
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Sworn Virgins

PEC, KOSOVO, ALBANIA: Rabe Lajqi, aged 77, has lived her life as a man from the age of 12 when she started to work as a shepheard. Eventually she became a logger, which has been the traditional work of the men of Rrugova for centuries. She says, 'I wanted to be, and indeed was, completely like a man, always! There was no love in my life but I never regretted it. I had a gun and the men where afraid of me. Once, I was working alone cutting trees in the forest and a guy came up to me, demanding that I stop. He said that I was a woman and shouldn't be in the woods by myself, never mind doing a man's work. I just pointed my rifle at him and told him, should he ever come within 100 yards of me again, he would be a dead man. Ha, how he ran! Nobody ever bothered me again.' In the patriarchal rural Albanian society the age-old tradition of the Virgjineshe ('sworn virgins') gives women the choice of taking on a male identity in order to enjoy male privileges. Becoming a 'sworn virgin' means to vow lifelong celibacy and to turn into a surrogate son to her father. The reasons for taking the vow are a lack of sufficient men in a family to carry out the men's work, or the lack of a headstrong man to become the head of the family. A woman might also escape an unwanted arranged marriage, without damaging family honour or she might want to be independent to travel and work as she pleases. Often the decision is made by the family head e.g. her father, grandfather or uncle. The girl or woman then acquires a male name, male clothes and a male haircut. With the new status she obtains all the male privileges, such as inheriting property, making decisions within the family and the community, being able to carry weapons, taking part in blood feuds and socializing freely with men. They are completely accepted and addressed as men by other members of their community and often behave more manly than the men. (Photo by Ben Speck/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***


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Restrictions:Contact your local office for all commercial or promotional uses.
Credit:Ben Speck / Contributor
Editorial #:88634338
Collection:Getty Images News
Date created:01 September, 2006
Licence type:Rights-managed
Release info:Not released. More information
Source:Getty Images Europe
Object name:88230739BS008_sworn
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