The first gay magazine has been launched in Morocco, despite the fact homosexuality is illegal in the country.

The Arabic publication, titled Mithly, has sold around 200 copies so far, having been distributed informally. It is also available to read online.

It has covered the recent controversy over Elton John’s appearance at a Moroccan music festival and a survey on suicide rates among gay Moroccans, Reuters reports.

The title is an Arabic word “the same as me” which has come to mean gay.

It is published by by gay rights group Kif Kif, which is Morocco’s only gay rights organisation, although it is based in Spain. Some of its writers live in Morocco but keep a low profile.

Samir Bargachi, general co-ordinator of Kif-Kif, told the website Afrik.com that he hoped Mithly could help tackle negative attitudes to homosexuality.

He said: “For over five years now, there has been a debate surrounding homosexuality in Morocco. But the mainstream media has the tendency to sensationalise the subject. With Mithly, we have the opportunity to give the views of homosexuals, and the opportunity to interact directly with society.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and article 489 of the country’s criminal code imposes prison terms on people who commit “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”