"A perfectly ordinary girl, perhaps with aspirations of marriage and
becoming a mother is asked by her family to take a vow of celibacy and
foreswear sexual relations for life. She is not being encouraged to join
a convent. She is taking on the responsibility and honor of protecting
her home, her family and socially becoming a man. In the solidly
patriarchal and tribal areas plagued by blood feuds and honor killings
of Albania's rural mountain villages many such women who have "become"
men act as the heads of their households. For sacrificing their innate
natures, they are afforded considerable masculine privileges. Skirts and
blouses are traded for trousers and button downs, long hair cropped to a
manly stubble. They smoke, work and swagger about town with the other
men. They are referred to as "he" and "uncle." Their absolute
transition is accepted, posited and taken without question by the people
among whom they live. They are called Sworn Virgins of Albania, or
‘burneshas." There are only a handful left.” -- Jill Peters
Photographer Jill Peters splits her time between Miami and New York. Sworn Virgins of Albania is an ongoing project and she is currently working on a documentary film.