Two women in Kaduna, Nigeria have been sentenced to six months in prison and 20 lashes each for having a lesbian relationship.

The Sharia court said that Malama Hauwa and Hajiya Ai’sha were violating the tenets of Islam and the teachings of Sharia law.

The women claimed in court to have been married for five years. Ai’sha said she had paid a dowry of 5,000 Nigerian naira (£21) to her ‘wife’ at the start of their relationship.

However, she also said she also has sex with men, and denied she is a member of any “group or association of lesbians, saying although there could be many others who practised same-sex love, she had no knowledge of the existence of any near her,” reports Nigerian newspaper Punch.

Their relationship came to the attention of the police when Ai’sha became concerned that Hauwa may be about to leave her and demanded the return of the dowry.

Nigeria, like many African countries, is notoriously conservative on issues such as homosexuality.

It is currently banned in the Nigerian penal code and in Muslim law.

Predominantly Muslim states in Nigeria introduced Sharia law, a legal system based on Islamic theory and philosophy of justice, in 2000.

The governor in a Muslim state must give his approval for some of the harsher penalties handed down by Sharia courts, such as execution or amputation.

In reality the re-introduction of harsh punishments apart from the death penalty has been the main feature of Islamic courts.

In Bauchi state alone there are 40 people awaiting amputation of one or both hands for theft.