A lesbian couple from Pakistan are seeking asylum in the UK after having defied death threats in order to get a civil partnership.

Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, originally lived in separate parts of Pakistan, and met three years ago after coming to Birmingham University to study business and health care management.

Earlier this month they held a civil partnership ceremony in Leeds Registry Office. Relatives of the couple said they had hoped to celebrate their relationship with an Islamic ceremony, but were unable to find an imam willing to conduct one.

They have since received death threats from Pakistan and within the UK and are seeking asylum. Their families say they would not be safe if they returned to their native country.

“This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives,” Ms Kausar told the Sunday Mercury.

“The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach. We are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society, which was once tolerant and respected individuals’ freedoms.”

A relative said: “The couple did not have an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as a nikah, as they could not find an imam to conduct what would have been a controversial ceremony.

“They have been very brave throughout as our religion does not condone homosexuality. The couple have had their lives threatened both here and in Pakistan and there is no way they could ever return there.”

Research published earlier this year by the University of Southampton shows LGBT asylum seekers are regularly being asked “inappropriate and insensitive” questions by UK judges.

The research, based on interviews with 11 lesbians from countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Jamaica found that the interviewees were frequently disbelieved by immigration judges, and faced questions such as whether they had read Oscar Wilde of attended Pride in an attempt to determine their sexuality.