The Malawi Human Rights Commission is seeking permission from Malawi's High Court to be a party to the assessment of Madonna's parental fitness in her attempt to adopt David Banda, a Malawi toddler, given up for adoption by his still living father. Says Justin Dzonzi, attorney and chairman of the coalition known as the Human Rights Consultative Committee, told journalists after a 1 1/2-hour closed hearing Monday, "Basically what we are asking the court is that we want to be joined as a party to the assessment because we have a lot of legal issues we want to raise." Dzonzi's committee has petitioned the court to make sure no Malawian laws were broken and to allow the committee to help assess Madonna's maternal fitness.
Though the coalition and child advocacy group claims that it is not their intention to stop the adoption, only to ensure that Malawi law is respected and upheld, it has been noted by Donzi that Malawi's current adoption laws are archaic and irregular, routinely allowing foreigners to adopt. "Over 1,000 Malawian children are being adopted illegally every year and yet the laws says international adoption are not permissible," said Dzonzi. "There is no system to monitor how these adopted children are being treated, wherever they are."
Madonna's Malawian lawyer Alan Chinula told journalists as far as Madonna was concerned, all Malawian adoption laws were followed. "If the laws are archaic it's not the Ritchie's fault," Chinula said. Madonna has said she met all the country's requirements. Chinula said apart from complying with Malawian laws, the Ritchie's were complying with adoption laws in Britain.
A High Court judge granted Madonna and her British filmmaker husband, Guy Ritchie, interim custody of David on Oct. 12, pending a decision on permanent adoption after an 18-to-24 months assessment period. Though Malawi regulations stipulate that the assessment period be spent in Malawi, Madonna was allowed to take the boy to her London home.
"We want to use the Madonna case to make sure that the rights of children in Malawi are effectively protected," said Dzonzi.
Said Penstone Kilembe, director of child welfare development, "We will work with child welfare officers in the county where the Ritchies are staying,"
David Banda's father, has said the human rights group's lawsuit threatens his son's future, but child advocacy groups have said the lack of clarity in Malawi when it comes to foreign adoptions could be exploited by child traffickers or pedophiles. Banda placed his son in the orphanage a month after his 28 year old wife died from complications during child birth. Yohane Banda expressed his concern, "As David's father I consented. I see no reason why I should change my mind now," said the 32-year-old farmer. He appealed to the advocacy group to "to back off and leave my son alone."
The singer discovered David at the orphanage after visiting to promote Raising Malawi - a charity she set up to assist orphans in the southern African country where largely due to AIDS, an estimated 2 million children have lost one or both parents and hundreds are adopted by foreigners every year.
Malawi's Department of Gender and Child Welfare Development said a team of Malawian child welfare officers would fly to London to make the first assessment in May 2007 and one more assessment will be done by December 2007 before a report is filed on the suitability of the Ritchies as adoptive parents. The couple has two other children, Lourdes, 10, and Rocco, six.
Malawi's High Court said Monday it will rule in one week's time whether a coalition of Malawian human rights and child advocacy groups should help decide whether pop star Madonna is fit to adopt a motherless Malawian toddler.
Justice Andrew Nyirenda adjourned the case after hearing arguments from the 67-member coalition that includes the state-run Malawi Human Rights Commission. His ruling was likely to have far-reaching consequences.
The judge said he would rule Nov. 20 on whether to admit the coalition as a party in the adoption proceedings.
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