David Banda and transracial adoption | Sunday Observer

David Banda and transracial adoption

3 October, 2021

Queen of Pop, Madonna paid tribute to her adopted son, David Banda, on his 16th birthday in a heartfelt Instagram post last week. In the post, the 63-year-old musical icon recalled her first meeting with David at an orphanage in the South East African nation of Malawi.

Though the adoption process was rife with legal battles that soured her relationship with Malawi, David is but the first of four children she adopted from the country, out of a total six. However, since then the children have thrived with Madonna, with David especially being famously favoured for his similar attitude to her.

David’s origins in Malawi before Madonna was surrounded by tragedy and hardship. He came from the small western Malawi village of Lipunga, home to only about 300 people. His two siblings before him had both died of illnesses at a very young age. David’s biological mother also died, just six days after giving birth to him.

His father, Yohane Banda, was forced to give David up for adoption as he was destitute and still owed his late wife’s dowry to his in-laws. To protect David from his siblings’ fate, Yohane gave David to the Home of Hope orphanage where Madonna found him at 18-months-old.

However, though Madonna had successfully managed to adopt, the process was anything but smooth. Malawi law dictated that any foreign persons seeking to adopt from within the country were required to reside in Malawi for a period of 18 months.

This law was implemented so that local welfare officials can monitor the suitability of the potential parents. Madonna skipped that process entirely, taking David with her to America, and returning to Malawi after 18 months to be officially approved.

This was only possible due to Malawi’s lack of concrete adoption laws at the time and Madonna was allowed by the courts to take David, despite it conflicting with the country’s Constitution. While she did so with the permission from the courts and Yohane, many human rights groups in Malawi took issue with the perceived exploitation of their laws by Madonna.

This incident and subsequent interactions Madonna would have with Malawi only soured relationships between the singer and the government.

Though she would found many charities, and built institutions like schools for the nation, the Malawi government stated that they felt bullied by her demanding VIP treatment because of her philanthropy.

Madonna also faced difficulties adopting her next child from Malawi, Mercy James, due to her divorce at the time making her unfit to adopt in the eyes of the Malawi courts. Despite these challenges, Madonna not only successfully adopted Mercy James, but also two more children later, the twins Stella and Esther.

Madonna’s adoption of four african children contributed to fringe but important debate about transracial adoption, especially when concerning celebrities.

The number of white celebrities adopting less privileged children is quite plentiful, with big names like Angelina Jolie, Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron also being known for it. The public nature of these adoptions have raised questions.

Some are concerned about people being inspired by them to adopt transracially without properly considering the impacts they might have on the children and the places they adopt from.

Child advocacy groups have specifically called out Madonna’s actions, stating that it may inspire others in Malawi to send their children to orphanages in hopes that they would get adopted.

However, others point out the benefits of these public adoptions, raising awareness and opening people’s minds to adopting these children in need.