The ‘Sworn Virgins’ of Albania, and similar phenomena in other countries, provide strong evidence that supports the concept of gender (i.e. being a woman or a man) as a socio-cultural construction. Our gender roles are learnt throughout life. This process, called gender socialisation, starts since a baby is born and continues throughout the various stages of life.
The ‘Sworn Virgins’ are women who at a certain point in their lifes ‘become’ men. As the quote below explains:
“In traditional patriarchal society in the southern Balkans, there has long been an option to provide male heirs where none exist: a girl or woman may herself, or her parents – even at her birth – declare that she has become male. In these cases the female thenceforth dresses as a boy/man, performs male tasks and mixes socially as a male. With the change she swears virginity and may never revert to her birth gender.”
Source: Antonia Young i Larenda Twigg: ‘Sworn virgins’ as Enhancers of Albanian Patriarchal Society. Etnološka tribina 32, Vol. 39, 2009., str. 117-134.
Check in this page some photos of these ‘women’ by Jill Peters: http://www.jillpetersphotography.com/swornvirginsofalbania