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At the age of 16, living in a remote village in northern Albania, Shkurta Hasanpapaj faced being forced into marriage. There was just one way out, and the young woman grasped it: She took the ancient, gender-bending oath to become a "sworn virgin". Nearly seven decades later, Hasanpapaj prefers to go by the male form of her name, Shkurtan.The Kanun, which also lays out the rules for the nation's notorious blood feuds, allows two ways to become a "virgjinesha," as sworn virgins are called in Albanian.One possibility is when all males in the family are dead or gone, and a girl takes the oath in order to take over male duties and rights.Both these sworn virgins firmly reject homosexuality.For any woman today who may be tempted to taking the oath of becoming a sworn virgin, much of the significance of the act will be lost as so much has changed in Albanian society, Young said.
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