A judge in Malawi has rejected Madonna's bid to adopt a 3-year-old orphan girl from that African country. According to The Associated Press, the country's High Court ruled on Friday (April 3) that the 50-year-old singer had not met the requirement that prospective adoptive parents live in the southern African nation for at least 18-24 months before the adoption process can be completed.
[artist id="1098"]Madonna[/artist] — who adopted a young boy, David Banda, from Malawi in 2006 — had spent the week in the country awaiting word from the court on her request to adopt the girl, Chifundo "Mercy" James. The rejection will likely please some of the critics of the adoption, who complained that authorities were giving the world-famous pop star special treatment by considering the waiving of the 18-month waiting period. The residency rule was waived in the adoption of David, whom Madonna was allowed to take home to London before his adoption was finalized last year.
According to the AP, it was unknown why the judge in the latest case, Esme Chombo, ruled differently than the judge in Madonna's previous adoption, but a court official said the attempt was rejected because the singer is not a resident of Malawi. Madonna's lawyer said she would lodge an appeal with the country's Supreme Court.
Malawi's government had expressed support for the adoption on Thursday. "We have close to 2 million orphans in Malawi who need help," Women and Child Welfare Development Minister Anna Kachikho told the AP. "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."
But Chombo explained in her ruling that the trend of celebrity adoptions could lead to child trafficking in the impoverished nation, which has been decimated by an AIDS epidemic.
"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," Chombo said.
Critics of the adoption had said the girl, whose mother died at age 14 just days after her birth and whose father's whereabouts are unknown, could live with her grandmother. Madonna had countered that the grandparent was unable to care for the girl and that she could offer the girl a permanent home and spare her the hardship of life as an orphan.
"I am able and willing to securely provide for Chifundo James and make her a permanent and established member of my family," Madonna said in a statement before the ruling. "To deny Chifundo James the opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable."
On Thursday, UsMagazine.com reported that Madonna was arranging a party to celebrate the adoption at an upscale lodge featuring traditional dancers and two of Mercy's uncles, who had signed off on the adoption papers.
David Banda accompanied his adoptive mother on her trip this week and on Sunday visited with his birth father, whom he reportedly did not recognize. Madonna first became aware of the devastating AIDS orphan situation in Malawi when she traveled there in 2006 while producing the documentary "I Am Because We Are," on the poverty and the AIDS crisis.