Virginity pressures in Albania bring women to the operating table

A Tirana bridal shop in Albania
A Tirana bridal shop in Albania on February 8, 2011 shows bullet holes from an AK-47 riffle targeted on the mannequins dressed in brides dresses in the shop window. Gender roles between males and females throughout the region now show vast contrasts between what is considered feminine and masculine within a shifting society. Image: Joseph A. Ferris III

Sexuality – Albanian style

Since the fall of Communism, the way young Albanians relate to each other has undergone radical changes as it has moved toward greater sexual freedom. Many sociologists have defined the phenomenon as a full “sexual revolution.” It is not comparable to the Western model though as it is devoid of Western based feminist features or left-wing political ideologies.

The current ‘so-called’ sexual revolution in Albania finds women today in weaker socio-economic conditions compared to 20 years ago. In an Albanian society that increasingly promotes values that are typically male and better suited for power politics and economic capitalism, women are often completely excluded from positions that include leadership or decision making.

According to the latest statistics most Albanians lose their virginity around the age of 13, the lowest age surveyed among countries in the Balkans. Additional data published by Albania’s Public Health Institute shows that most youngsters live their sexuality naturally and without feeling any moral or religious pressures from society.

This data however is in obvious contradiction with the ‘return to virginity’ trend. Vocal public opinions of young men filling the Albanian blogosphere with statements about the ‘need for virginity’ seem to be inconsistent with the public Albanian data on sexuality and society.

Blogosphere, virginity and sexuality

“I’d never marry one of the girls I’ve had, I wouldn’t trust them,” said a man who adds his comments on one of the numerous Albanian public forum threads on the subject. While another man compares his relationship with a woman to be similar to the one he has with his “brand-new” car, he compares the advantages of virginity with buying a “new not used car.” Despite extreme and numerous chauvinistic comments by young men, there are few women, or others in Albania, who try to make people see the hypocrisy of the idea of a woman’s ‘re-virgination.’

Forum comments are mainly posted by very young people and feature a sexual model where the man is traditionally less penalized by society, while the women remain ‘vulnerable.’ “It is the same kind of vulnerability of some rural and patriarchal societies that have not undergone industrialization and urbanization,” explains Zyhdi Dervishi, university professor and author of “Women in the Eye of the Storm,” a compendium that covers the history of women in Albania.

The legacy of the regime

Albania’s cultural legacy, still rooted in the country, has not provided many positive contributions to women. The regime of former Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, who was in office from 8 November, 1941 until his death on 11 April, 1985, has reinforced the most traditional aspects of Albanian society: the sense of clan-family and sexuality bound by a sense of honor. This distinction also given the idea of ‘chastity’ its own ‘political value’ in Albania.

Virginity was, and still is, considered a moral value going hand-in-hand with a clean political record. It is also still considered anything but private. Often in numerous cases communities make decisions about the most personal aspects of a relationship, instead of the couple themselves, who make their own decisions.

“In the Balkans we have not had the same social development as in Western Europe,” outlines Dervishi. “…In a way we can say that virginity holds more or less the same value it did in 19th century Western Europe.”


In May 2010 Albanian pop music celebrity Juliana Pasha represented her country at the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, Norway with a song that reveals tAlbanian society’s image of the bride and women’s chastity inside the Albania pop culture.


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Reporting on social injustice human rights journalist Marjola Rukaj has published her work in numerous publications in Europe. In addition to WNN – Women News Network, Rukaj’s work can be seen in the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, European Alternatives, FLARE Network France, as well as the online news provider and research centre devoted to social and political change in South-East Europe, Turkey and the Caucasus, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC).


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This story has been brought to you through an ongoing WNN – Women News Network partnership with Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC) with additional copy editing by WNN – Women News Network.


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