Moroccan gay magazine pushes limits of expression

Wed May 19, 2010 7:14am EDT
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By Tom Pfeiffer and Zakia Abdennebi

RABAT (Reuters Life!) - Just 200 copies of North Africa's first gay interest magazine have been sold in Morocco since April, but Islamists are already warning of a threat to traditional family values.

Homosexuality is taboo in the Arab world and Moroccan law punishes "lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex" with jail terms of up to three years and a fine.

The owners of the magazine Mithly (an Arabic word meaning "the same as me" which has come to mean gay) were prepared for a backlash and already had a back-up plan -- a Web version which will carry its second edition this week.

The paper edition circulated informally because it lacked a distribution license from the government, said Samir Bargachi, general coordinator of Kif-Kif, Morocco's only gay rights group and the magazine's publisher.

But he said Mithly's appearance is a sign of progress on homosexual rights in the conservative north African country, where most gay men and lesbians tend to keep their sexuality a secret for fear of rejection by family and friends.

"Many in Kif-Kif have had no problems with their families... Others have been thrown out of home, had problems at university or at work," said Barghachi by phone from Madrid where he lives.

Kif-Kif -- a north African expression that translates roughly as "all the same" -- is based in Spain, has not been legally recognized in Morocco and cannot campaign openly. Most of Mithly's writers live in Morocco but keep a low profile.