Friday, April 3, 2009

The Law, Madonna and Mercy James

I am intrigued by the High Court's decision to reject Madonna's application to adopt Mercy James. I must say I am torn on this matter: a Big part of me is sympathetic to little Mercy and the opportunities that would have been opened for her if she were to join Madonna's household. I can just imagine how little Mercy will feel when she learns as a grown up that she was denied the opportunity to experience a totally different life from the challenges of living in an orphanage where she seems destined to spend a good part of her young life now.
I am not naive of course. Mercy is just one of thousands of kids like her in Malawi. Just because Madonna sought to take her to join little David does not change much for the plight of orphans in our country. Adoptions like these, in other words, much as they change the lives of the single individual kids, impact very little, if at all, on the challenge of orphans in our country. We need a more holistic approach other than celebrity adoptions to solve the problem.
This does not mean though we should frustrate well wishers like Madonna and other unheralded individuals who want to help by adopting some of our less fortunate children like Mercy. I am a firm believer that the opportunities we get very strongly influence our destiny. While David Banda might have been condemned to a life of underachievement, he now stands to fulfill his full potential and perhaps more due to the world of opportunities opened for him under Madonna's roof. Otherwise, we have too many children growing up in our beautiful country who have so much potential yet they are never given the opportunity to translate this potential into meaningful lives because it remains untapped.
Let me state here though I do not in any way blame the High Court for making the decision it has. It is not for the Court's to make laws for the country- theirs is simply one of interpretation. The blame, in my view, ought to be placed squarely on the feet of our politicians.
The problems in our adoption laws were exposed when Madonna first adopted David Banda a few years back (or most likely earlier when other less glamorous foreign nationals might have faced similar challenges). After that episode, we should have woken up and been proactive to address the deficiencies by amending the law accordingly. Instead, we were preoccupied with the trivial political games that appear to be the hallmark of our politics at the expense of addressing serious issues that affect us. It is thus hypocritical for all manner of politicians, including cabinet Ministers, to make noises against the ruling when it is precisely their fault that they did not act. To hear the likes of Patricia Kaliyati and Anna Kachikho speaking on the matter makes me realize these people have no clue as regards what their role is in law making. Had the law been changed, the Court's would have ruled differently. It was not.It it would thus be unfair to blame Judge Esmie Chombo - she was simply doing her job and applying the law as it stands. That is called the rule of law.