Friday was the first day of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, viewed by ca 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide as the month of fasting.
The purpose of the fast is to purification spiritually, reflection and self-improvement. It’s also meant to make you experience hunger to develop more empathy and willingness to give money to charity.
During Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat, drink, or have sex during day hours. But after sunset “iftar” starts families and friends eat together. Then the fast start again during dawn.
Ramadan in Kosovo
In Kosovo, around 90% of the population consider themselves as Muslims. However, society is very secular and most people don’t practice Islam daily.
For example, not a single person I know in Pristina prays five times a day. A lot of people drink alcohol, party, and have sex before marriage. Even the call to prayer from the mosque is at a lower volume than other Muslim countries.
So based on my experiences the conversations I’ve had with people here about being a Muslim – Islam in Kosovo is more about tradition and less about practicing a religion.
That’s why I became very surprised by how many people are fasting here. Almost all people I’ve asked are fasting. And they take it very seriously.
Sex during Ramadan
Some Muslim men were talking about not having sex during the whole month of Ramadan and I was wondering if this was the rule or just some personal practice. So, I looked in the Quran and found what Allah is saying about it.
”It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them… So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you”
So yes, it’s allowed to have sex with your wives. By the wat, isn’t it interesting that in 58 counties polygamy (one husband having many views) is still legal whilst polyandry (one wife having many husbands) is illegal in most countries of the world?
HOWEVER, Kosovo is not one of these 58 countries – BUT it is still a country where cheating is extremely common, and especially amongst men, which made me wonder:
Do the men in Kosovo cheat less during Ramadan?
When I came to Kosovo in September western men here warmed me about “the Muslim men in Kosovo that beat their women and cheat on them”.
That’s Islamophobic bullshit of course, coming from men who don’t know the first thing about women’s suffering in their own countries.
But I have to say when it comes to cheating married men, it’s not just something that I have been warned of by western men. It’s something that EVERYONE has warned me about.
I’ve never experienced cheating being such an ordinary and socially accepted part of society. And I’m talking about men that are cheating.
Why women don’t cheat as much as men
Obviously women in Kosovo cheat too, but not to the same extent. BECAUSE it’s not as easy for them to go out and just fuck around on the town with their friends looking for sex at hotel bars and clubs.
I know that many people in Pristina are not aware of this, but we as work with gender equality know that you don’t have to go to the rural areas to find women that don’t leave the home without their husbands’ permission.
Women drinking coffee together in public for the first time
My friend collected a group of women in a rural area to meet and have coffee together in a restaurant. The women were over the moon excited because it was the first time IN THEIR LIVES that they met together outside the home, in a public place.
When I meet with women’s organizations and women who work with gender equality here in Kosovo I usually tell this story. Then they tell me that you don’t have to go to the rural areas to find women who don’t go out, you can just go to the outskirts of Pristina to find women not leaving the house alone and when ever she wants to.
Women are not as sexually free
And the fear of getting pregnant is always there more or less for a woman who’s not using some sort of birth control. Condoms do break.
And most women in Kosovo have no access to professional birth control consultation or the type of contraception that could work best for them.
Most women in Kosovo are not using other birth controls than condoms. And in many rural areas, women are not even in control of when to get pregnant. It’s decided/controlled by the family.
I’ve even met young educated people in Pristina, that has never even heard about some of the most common contraceptives.
And making an abortion is not as easy, accessible and socially accepted as in Sweden. In Sweden, women started using birth controls in the ’70s which became a revolution for women’s sexual freedom. We have also had access to abortion for decades.
Women have more responsibility at home
So, it’s important when speaking about cheating to look at the different opportunities and freedoms of having sex. A woman in Kosovo is also more expected to stay in the home taking care of the household and the children than a Swedish woman and it’s less accepted for married women here to go out and party at clubs with men.
Women in Kosovo spend 300% more time on household and family care than men. 7.1 hours compared with 2.3 hours.
Then it’s also important to speak about the different opportunities for men and women to choose to not accept the partners’ infidelity and get a divorce.
Women in Kosovo can’t divorce easily
Only 13% of women in Kosovo have a job and less than 20% of women in Kosovo own property. In nearly all cases it’s impossible for women to just leave their husbands, get their own apartment and afford to pay their own rent, pay for the kindergarden, pay for food and pay for their kids.
In Kosovo, there is no financial support from the government for single parents. But obviously, this hits women harder since they are most often financially dependent on their husbands and not the other way around.
It’s in so many ways easier for a husband in Kosovo to leave his wife than the other way around. So many women in Kosovo live in relationships where they get both cheated on and beaten because they have no other choice. They can’t afford to leave.
(68% of women in Kosovo have experienced domestic violence during their lifetime)
Women blaming women
Adding social norms. My friend who’s a male police officer told me that even if the husband is a cheating asshole, society and people in the local community will still judge the woman “calling her crazy because she got a divorce”. She will still get the blame.
In Kosovo woman gets blamed a lot for the things they fall victims of by men. Victim blaming is extremely integrated into the society of Kosovo and surprisingly widely upheld by women.
- 35% of women in Kosovo say they feel that violence is often provoked by the victim.
- 32% of women think that women who say they have been abused often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape.
- 74% of citizens in Kosovo blame women for provoking the sexual harassment they experience and 40.5% believe young women like to be harassed.
How women here in Kosovo are blaming women for patriarchal structures has definitely been one of the biggest shocks for me coming to Kosovo.
Difficult to approach
Even my friends in both Sweden and America, send me messages on Facebook after having read the comments by women here. Comments about blaming both women and mothers for the lack of gender equality in Kosovo.
And it’s very difficult to approach these women’s victim-blaming attitudes without coming across as a patronizing Swede. I’ve become very good during the years of explaining feminism to men, but to explain it for women I feel is very hard.
One method that I tried and liked was to let men speak about feminism. I encouraged them with a competition where they could win 100€ and lots of great things got said. You can read it here.
Back to the cheating, just to keep clarifying
It’s not groups of married women you see looking for guys in hotel bars, it’s not groups of married women that go partying at clubs buying drinks to men, it’s not groups of married women that go together to the massage places (believing that Kosovo is the only country where trafficking don’t exist), and it’s not groups of married women that are buying presents to their 18-year old lovers.
My personal experience
Married men are contacting me daily coming with different offers, and when I’m hanging out with male friends I often hear them speak about their secret girlfriends doing high fives laughing together.
I also ask them if it’s common that most married men have secret girlfriends and they say yes.
I had a conversation yesterday with a guy I know here in Pristina that explained it in a very clear way “My wife knows that I’m traveling the world. She already thinks that I’m cheating so why not do it.”
I asked him if he thought his wife was cheating on him. He said no. I said I hope she is.
I had another conversation with a married man the other day who invited me to drink wine with him in his second apartment. I asked if his wife was going to join us and he said no. Then I asked if they had an open relationship and he said “Yes. But only for me”.
Then this other guy had a very interesting proposal. “You can teach me about sex so that I can become a better lover and then use my new skills on my wife”.
Islam and cheating
I also often ask men about their religious beliefs. They speak very proudly about what it means to be a Muslim for them, until I ask them if they sleep with other women apart from their wives.
Then the conversation stops and it becomes very clear that whatever faith they have it’s a tailor-made one, a tailor-made Islam only available for men.
The Tirana card
They often play the Tirana card. ”One weekend we are going to go to Tirana together to have fun” and I always respond the same way “Is your wife going to come with us?” You can guess the answer.
The fear of sleeping or getting involved with a married man here is something that I share with my Kosovar single girlfriends. They tell me that all the men that contact them on dating apps are married.
I wasn’t paranoid when I got here, but I have definitely become.
Sleeping with married men
One guy that I liked, who could speak Swedish which was great, turned out to be married. He also had 3 kids. This really disturbed me when I found out. Another guy that I liked even more, who I could speak a lot of politics with and who was the most amazing kisser, also turned out to be married.
His wife wrote to me and I called her up. It was a hard conversation of course, but still, I’m so glad about it for her sake because it was so obvious that he had been cheating on her for 20 years. He told me so much about his previous girlfriends and “single life” abroad.
So yes, I’m paranoid now. Every time I’m with a man and his phone rings and he doesn’t pick up I think it’s his wife. I also do proper background checks on social media.
Being a single woman in Kosovo is definitely like walking a minefield. And when you finally meet a single man and have sex with him it’s often such a disappointment. It’s like I’ve said before – if they only fucked as good as they cheat.
So finally, what do you believe?
Under normal circumstances without coronavirus making it almost impossible to cheat – Is Ramadan a time when men usually spend more time at home with family, having iftar and working on their self-improvement, and less time fucking their secret girlfriends practicing their tailor-made Islam, available only for men?