“In Northern Albania, in the Cursed Mountains..the Kannun, a collection of laws from the Middle Ages, passed on for generations by word-of-mouth, permits families to replace the male head of the household with a woman in the case of the patriarch’s death, often brought about by clan-related blood feuds. Yet the woman’s new status requires her to make an irrevocable vow to preserve her virginity for the rest of her life.” From Sworn Virgins series by photographer Pepa Hristova
“These so-called oath-virgins, or Burrnesha, not only receive the status but also the rights of men and are highly respected in the family. They do men’s work, and dress and behave like men. But they are men in a social, rather than in a sexual sense. The sworn virgins adapt their roles so perfectly that, over time, they are no longer recognized as women outside of their family. Over the years, the woman in them is lost”.