On Friday, a three-judge panel of Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeals overruled a lower court decision denying Madonna’s adoption of four-year-old Chifundo “Mercy” James. The lower court’s earlier decision cited Malawi’s residency laws when rejecting Madonna’s request to adopt Mercy. Specifically, the lower court found that Madonna had not spent sufficient time in Malawi to adopt a Malawian child. The lower court additionally reasoned that rejection of Madonna’s adoption application was proper because Madonna is not a Malawi resident and Mercy would fare well in the orphanage in which she lived.

Speaking for Malawi’s High Court, Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo reasoned that the lower court should have considered Madonna’s dedication to helping disadvantaged children when deciding Madonna’s request to adopt Mercy. Specifically, Madonna founded the charity Raising Malawi, which provides medical care, food, and education to Malawi’s orphans. Chief Justice Munlo also indicated that the lower court’s decision was out of touch with the times and that “[e]very child has the right to love.”

James Kambewa, the man claiming to be Mercy’s biological father, claims the High Court’s opinion left him in tears. In response to the decision, Kambewa said: “This is my child, and somebody should have listened to me. I want Madonna to give me my child.” Kambewa concedes he has never met Mercy, but asserts he was stopped from seeing Mercy at the orphanage once Madonna initiated the adoption and has since been left out of the ensuing proceedings. Kambewa alleges he was told Mercy died during childbirth; however, Mercy’s biological maternal relatives have stated that they do not believe Kambewa is Mercy’s biological father. Despite Kambewa’s statements, the Court did not address his concerns in Friday’s decision, thereby eradicating all of his potential parental rights. Mercy’s biological mother was unmarried and died soon after Mercy’s birth.

Children’s welfare groups also contest Madonna’s adoption of Mercy, alleging Malawi’s adoption laws were bent to allow Madonna’s adoption of Mercy because of her celebrity status. Further, the Human Rights Consultative Committee believes the High Court’s decision risks making Malawi vulnerable to child-trafficking.

Mercy is Madonna’s second child adopted from Malawi. Madonna adopted her son David from Malawi in 2006.

Laura Robinson

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