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Malawi judge refuses Madonna's adoption bid

Malawi law has requirement that prospective parents live inthe southern African nation for at least 18 months.

LILONGWE,
MALAWI – A judge has rejected Madonna's request to adopt a second child
from Malawi because of a requirement that prospective parents live in
the southern African nation for at least 18 months, another judge and a
lawyer said Friday.

The judge who confirmed the decision did not
make the ruling, but saw it. The lawyer was present when the ruling was
made. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to discuss the case.

Madonna's efforts to adopt
3-year-old Chifundo "Mercy" James had drawn criticism from some
activists who said the little girl would be best off with relatives.

The 50-year-old pop superstar, who was not in court on Friday, can appeal the ruling to Malawi's Supreme Court.

The
residency rule was waived in 2006, when Madonna was allowed to take her
adopted son, David, to London before his adoption was finalized in
2008. It was not clear why Judge Esme Chombo ruled differently Friday.
Another judge had handled Madonna's previous adoption case.

However,
when Madonna adopted David, she was still married to British film
director Guy Ritchie. Their divorce became finalized earlier this year,
and she was adopting Mercy as a single mother.

In court papers
made public Friday, Madonna said Chifundo's grandmother was unable to
care for her. She promised to make Mercy a permanent part of her family
and spare her the "hardship and emotional trauma" of life as an orphan.

The
girl's mother, according to the affidavit, died at age 14 just days
after her baby was born Jan. 22, 2006. There was no mention of the
father in the affidavit. The mother's brother is listed as having
consented to the adoption.

"I am able and willing to securely
provide for Chifundo James and make her a permanent and established
member of my family," Madonna said. "To deny Chifundo James the
opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and
emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable."

Malawi's child welfare minister had endorsed Madonna's adoption application.

"We
have close to 2 million orphans in Malawi who need help," Women and
Child Welfare Development Minister Anna Kachikho told The Associated
Press. "We can't look after all of them as a country. If people like
Madonna adopt even one such orphan, it's one mouth less we have to
feed."

Orphans usually are taken in by their extended families in
Africa, but AIDS and other diseases have taken a toll on those who
might have traditionally provided support. In villages across the
continent, frail elderly grandmothers do their best to care for
children, but many end up in orphanages or on the streets.

The United Nations estimates 18 million African children will have lost a parent to AIDS by 2010.

Critics
accused Madonna of using her fame and money to fast-track the adoption
process, but the singer said she had followed standard procedures. She
faced similar allegations in 2006 when she brought home David, who is
now 3.

A coalition of non-governmental organizations called the
Human Rights Consultative Committee had criticized Madonna's adoption
attempts, saying that adoption should be the last resort and that
children need to be taken care of by their own family.

"Mercy
James is a child who has her extended close family members alive and we
urge Madonna to assist the child from right here," the coalition said
earlier this week.

Yet others from Malawi had applauded Madonna,
saying the adoption would give Mercy enormous opportunities that she
would be unable to achieve in the impoverished country, where 14
percent of adults are infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Madonna
first traveled to Malawi in 2006 while filming a documentary on the
devastating poverty and AIDS crisis. On this trip, she has been
accompanied by her three children: 3-year-old David, 12-year-old
daughter Lourdes and 8-year-old son Rocco.

The four have visited
an orphanage where David once lived and David also saw his biological
father for the first time since he left Malawi in 2006.

Madonna
and Lourdes also visited a village in Malawi this week and looked over
plans to build a new school there. The singer has several charity
projects in Malawi.

 
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