The European Court of Justice (ECJ) says asylum can be granted in cases where people are actually jailed for homosexuality in their home country. ECJ rulings apply to all EU members. The ECJ had been asked whether homosexuals could be considered a "particular social group" and whether criminalisation and possible imprisonment amounted to persecution.
The ECJ says laws specifically targeting homosexuals do make them a separate group. Under international law a particular social group with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim refugee status if the persecution amounts to a severe violation of human rights.
Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries, including Nigeria, Kenya and Botswana. But it is up to the national EU authorities - in this case the Netherlands - to determine "whether, in the applicant's country of origin, the term of imprisonment... is applied in practice".
In June a report by Amnesty International said homophobic attacks had reached dangerous levels in sub-Saharan Africa and must stop.