Published by The Atlantic, May 14, 2013
To get around restrictions on homosexual material, Element turned to app stores
A woman dances as she takes part in a Pink Dot Sg event at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 30, 2012. About 15,000 people took part in the event to promote acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community in Singapore. (Tim Chong/Reuters)
By Tom Benner
While Western countries debate the merits of gay marriage, countries in Southeast Asia remain far less accepting of homosexuality.
In socially conservative Singapore, where sexual contact between men is still punishable with up to two years’ jail time, an online-only magazine targeted to gay men in Asia launched last month, with a second issue due in June. It is something of a test case for media and cultural barriers.
For a population that both shows signs of slowly accepting of gay culture, and embraces the digital media formats that allow the publisher to bypass local media licensing requirements for print publications, the timing may be right for Element, a magazine that covers fashion, entertainment, fitness, and issues relevant to the Asian gay community.
“It’s an excellent moment,” said Hirokazu Mizuhara, the managing director and creative force behind the bi-monthly e-magazine. “A few years back a digital magazine probably wouldn’t be able to garner a lot of attention. In Singapore, given that it’s a very digital society, a purely e-magazine can have the same effect as a printed version.”
By limiting the publication to an electronic version — available on digital platforms such as the Apple App store and the Android Market — and using an Internet host server based in the United States, Element bypasses licensing requirements set by the Singapore government, which regulates locally produced content, and eliminates the need for a print distribution.
While the e-magazine’s publisher touts the lucrative market for the “pink dollar” in Asia, Singapore is surrounded by countries where homosexuality remains illegal (such as Malaysia) or meets with strong disapproval (such as Indonesia). That makes the online-only gambit seem necessary. Continue reading …