) are women who take a vow of chastity and wear male clothing in order to live as men in the patriarchal northern Albanian society.a set of codes and laws developed by Lekë Dukagjini and used mostly in northern Albania and Kosovo from the 15th century until the 20th century. They cannot smoke, wear a watch, or vote in their local elections.The Kanun is not a religious document – many groups follow it, including Albanian Orthodox, and Muslims. They cannot buy land, and there are many jobs they are not permitted to hold.
A woman becomes a sworn virgin by swearing an irrevocable oath, in front of 12 village or tribal elders, to practice celibacy.
Then she is allowed to live as a man and may dress in male clothes, use a male name, carry a gun, smoke, drink alcohol, take on male work, act as the head of a household (for example, living with a sister or mother), play music and sing, and sit and talk socially with men.
The sworn virgin is believed to be the only formal, socially defined female-to-male cross-gender and cross-dressing role in Europe.
Similar practices occurred in some Native American tribes in North America.
However it is sometimes possible to take back the vows if the sworn virgin has finished her obligations to the family and the reasons or motivations (see below) which enabled her to take the vows are no longer current.
There are many reasons why a woman would have wanted to take this vow, and observers have recorded a variety of motivations.One woman said she became a sworn virgin in order to not be separated from her father, and another in order to live and work with her sister.Several were recorded as saying they always felt more male than female.Some hoped to avoid a specific unwanted marriage, and others hoped to avoid marriage in general.Becoming a sworn virgin was the only way for women whose families had committed them as children to an arranged marriage to refuse to fulfil it, without dishonouring the groom's family and risking a blood feud.It was the only way a woman could inherit her family's wealth, which was particularly important in a society in which blood feuds resulted in the deaths of many male Albanians, leaving many families without male heirs.