Madonna says adopting Malawi boy as hard as childbirth

23rd May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Despite being criticised by the press, the pop star is confident that she will win permanent custody of three-year-old David.

23 May 2008

CANNES - Madonna said Thursday her efforts to adopt a child in Malawi and the ridicule she faced in the press had been as difficult as childbirth, but she was confident of soon winning permanent custody.

The 49-year-old pop star, who was in Cannes with a documentary she produced and wrote about AIDS orphans in the southeast African nation, said she had been bewildered by the criticism and suspicion she faced.

"It was painful and it was a big struggle and I didn't understand it but in the end, I rationalised that, when a woman has a child and goes through natural childbirth, she suffers an enormous amount," she told reporters.

"So I sort of went through my own kind of birthing pains with dealing with the press on my front doorstep accusing me of kidnapping or whatever you want to call it. I had to go through some kind of process and in the end it made me stronger so I can't complain."

A court in Malawi is expected to rule this week on whether Madonna and her British filmmaker husband Guy Ritchie can permanently adopt three-year-old David after an interim custody order was granted 18 months ago.

David was placed in an orphanage after his mother died during childbirth.

Madonna said Thursday that the woman had died of AIDS and that David's biological father, who is still alive, had dropped his initial objections and formally approved of the adoption so his son could avoid a life of poverty.

More than half of Malawi's population lives on less than a dollar a day and the country is one of the world's worst affected by AIDS with about 14 percent of its 12 million people infected with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

Madonna meanwhile is the world's highest paid female singer. Having given birth to a daughter, Lourdes, and a son, Rocco, she was won over by tiny David on a visit to an AIDS orphanage in October 2006.

But critics have accused her of using her vast wealth to fast-track the adoption process, a charge she has vigorously denied.

And although widely praised for her charity work in Malawi, the adoption case also triggered a storm of protest there.

Madonna said the absence of laws in Malawi allowing for international adoptions meant hers became a test case.

"I'm happy to be the guinea pig," she said.

Madonna's film, "I Am Because We Are" tells the wrenching story of a generation of children left to fend for themselves after AIDS robs them of their parents.

It includes interviews with high-profile activists including former US president Bill Clinton and South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, spliced between images of grinding poverty, ailing AIDS patients and the terror experienced by children suddenly left alone.

Its optimistic ending focuses on charity groups working to ensure medical care, education and guidance for the children and ways viewers can help.

The picture was directed by Nathan Rissman, an amateur filmmaker who had previously worked for Madonna and Ritchie as a gardener and babysitter.

Despite Rissman's lack of experience, the film has won critical praise for its searing images and tightly edited interviews and has been sold in several territories.

"I'm hoping the whole world sees it," said Madonna, who premiered her first feature film, a comedy set in London, to mixed reviews in Berlin in February.

Madonna said the death of her own mother when she was only six had been a factor in leading her to tell the story of the more than one million AIDS orphans in Malawi.

The film's title comes from an African adage about individuals' connection to their communities and the world.

It is showing on the sidelines of the Cannes film festival, which wraps up on Sunday.

[AFP / ANP / Expatica]

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