8 February 2017

Malawi: Madonna's Tangles With Malawi Courts Over Adoption

Photo: Madonna/Instagram
Madonna in Malawi (file photo).

Nairobi — Madonna's adoption of twin girls follows earlier tangles with Malawi's courts, which show the divided views towards cross-border adoption in the impoverished southern African country.

* October 2006 - Malawi's High Court granted Madonna and her then-husband director Guy Ritchie interim orders to adopt David Banda and take him to live with them in Britain.

Human rights groups in Malawi sought a court injunction to stop the adoption on the basis that Malawian law prohibits adoptions by non-residents.

* May 2008 - The High Court granted the couple an order to permanently adopt Banda after receiving positive reports of Banda's life in Britain.

"Is residence so paramount?" Judge Andrew Nyirenda asked in his ruling. "There are much more weighty considerations in the welfare of our needy children."

* March 2009 - Madonna returned to Malawi to adopt a second child, a three-year-old girl living in an orphanage, Chifundo 'Mercy' James, whose mother died soon after the birth.

* April 2009 - the High Court rejected Madonna's petition as she was not resident in Malawi.

"Anyone could come to Malawi and quickly arrange for an adoption that might have grave consequences on the very children that the law seeks to protect," said Judge Esmie Chombo, adding that this could facilitate child trafficking.

"The issue of residence... is the very bedrock of protection that our children need; it must therefore not be tampered with."'

* June 2009 - Madonna won an appeal to adopt James via the Supreme Court, which ruled that she was resident in Malawi at the time of the application.

Madonna plans to visit Malawi frequently to instill cultural pride in her children, and has a "noble" project to improve the lives of Malawian children, the Supreme Court judges ruled.

"The appellant in this case is not a mere sojourner in this country but has a targeted long-term presence aimed at ameliorating the lives of more disadvantaged children in Malawi," they said.

Having cared for her younger siblings from the age of six, after her mother died, Madonna has a "noble spirit of wishing to assist those that are less fortunate in life", they added.

Her homes in Beverly Hills and London and her tax returns show she can provide for all the infant's needs, they said.

* July 2010 - The Child Care, Protection and Justice Act passed into law. Sections of the draft bill, which required applicants to foster the child in Malawi for one year, were omitted.

*February 2017 - Madonna returned to Malawi and the High Court granted her permission to adopt twins.

(Reporting by Katy Migiro @katymigiro; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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