The NY Times today contains a feature about Pashe Keqi, the last of Albania’s sworn virgins.
The practice of the sworn virgin occurred “under the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries. Under the Kanun, the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same – 12 oxen.”
In a land of war and disease, women might take on the role of a man to replace a dead father, to avoid an arranged marriage, or just to live a better life. Their assumption of the role was very thorough and they ranked, behaved and were accepted as a man.
Pashe Keqi’s observations on her choice:
“Back then, it was better to be a man because, before, a woman and an animal were considered the same thing,” says Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes downing shots of Raki and smoking cigarettes. “Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men and are even more powerful, and I think today it would be fun to be a woman.”