May 22, 2008 / 4:30 PM / 10 years ago

Madonna happy to be "guinea pig" in adoption case

CANNES, France (Reuters) - American singer Madonna said on Thursday she was happy to be a “guinea pig” in a case she hopes could ease adoptions from Malawi, where an AIDS epidemic has orphaned more than 1 million children.

The southern African country’s High Court is considering whether Madonna can adopt an infant boy.

A report by Malawi’s Human Rights Commission says the adoption could be illegal because it does not conform with international conventions and procedures under the country’s law.

Madonna, presenting a documentary on the plight of children in Malawi at the Cannes film festival, said the controversy had been difficult to deal with but she was happy to be involved in a move that might allow more children to be adopted.

“Up until this time there wasn’t an adoption law, so consequently I‘m sort of the template or the role model, so to speak, for future adoptions,” she told a news conference.

“Hopefully after we get through this adoption it will be easier for other people to adopt children and I‘m happy to be the guinea pig,” she said.

Madonna holds her adopted son, David Banda, at an orphan care centre run by Raising Malawi, a grassroots initiative by Madonna, in Mphendula Village, about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital Lilongwe April 19, 2007. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

But critics say she has been allowed to get around laws that prevent non-residents adopting children.

Madonna’s film “I Am Because We Are” recounts the story behind her efforts to adopt David, a boy whose mother died in childbirth in Malawi, said she had tried to look at the controversy in a positive light.

“Yes it was painful and it was a big struggle and I didn’t understand it, but in the end I rationalized that when a woman has a child and goes through natural child birth she suffers an enormous amount,” she said.

“So I sort of went through my own kind of birthing pains dealing with the press on my front doorstep and accusing me of kidnapping or whatever you want to call it. In the end it made me stronger so I can’t complain.”

Madonna began adoption proceedings for David in 2006 and the boy has since then been living with her and her film director husband, Guy Ritchie, in their London home.

David has been with them since he was 13 months old. His father, who approves the adoption bid, had placed him in an orphanage after the death of his wife.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Timothy Heritage

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