Burrnesha or a Sworn Virgin is an identity, sometimes a third gender, for AFAB individuals within Balkan countries who take up the role of men, live out the life of men, and behave and dress in a masculine mannerism socially. They are unnallowed to have sexual relations or marry within their culture.
This group of individuals is now rather small, however it still exists, and has been estimated that there are fewer than 102 Albanian sworn virgins left.. There are various motivations for someone choosing to identify as a sworn virgin. Some examples include...
- An AFAB individual who comes from households where there were no boys, and so the family had no one else to give proper inheritance to.
- An AFAB individual who wants to avoid an arranged marriage.
- An AFAB individual who wants to avoid marriage with men (due to being sapphic).
- An AFAB individual that wishes to avoid romance/sex in general due to being on the ace or aro spectrum.
- An AFAB transgender man who wishes to transition within their culture.
- An AFAB non-binary or anonbinary transmasculine individual who wishes to transition within their culture.
The tradition of sworn virgins in Albania developed out of the Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit when a set of codes and laws developed by Lekë Dukagjini and began to be used mostly in northern Albania and Kosovo from the 15th century until the 20th century. The Kanun is not a religious document, though many groups follow it, including Albanian Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims. The Kanun dictates that families must be patrilineal (meaning wealth is inherited through a family's men) and patrilocal (upon marriage, a woman moves into the household of her husband's family). Women are treated like property of the family. Under the Kanun, women are stripped of many rights. They cannot smoke, wear a watch, or vote in local elections. They cannot buy land, and there are many jobs they are not permitted to hold. There are also establishments that they cannot enter.
The practice of sworn virginhood was first reported by missionaries, travelers, geographers and anthropologists, who visited the mountains of northern Albania in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Someone can become a sworn virgin at any age, most times out of personal desire or to satisfy parents. One becomes a sworn virgin by swearing an irrevocable oath, in front of twelve village or tribal elders, to adopt the role and practice celibacy. After this, sworn virgins live as men and others relate to them as such, usually though not always using masculine pronouns to address them or speak about them to other individuals; they may dress in male clothing, 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.
Breaking the vow was once punishable by death, but it is doubtful that this punishment is still carried out. Many sworn virgins today still refuse to go back on their oath because their community would reject them for breaking the vows. However, it is sometimes possible to take back the vows if the reasons or motivations or obligations to family which lead to taking the vow no longer exist.
The flag was coined by an anomynous through Tumblr user pride-color-schemes on January 29th of 2017. The flags meanings are as follows; The background is the transmasculine flag, the two headed black eagle is a symbol found throughout the Balkan countries and their histories, the flower the eagle holds with its wings is a red poppy which is a national flower of Albania and associated with Balkans in general. It is also meant as a symbol of blooming forth into ones true self, while the eagle is meant to be pride in being Balkan and being able to continue an ancient tradition.