Human rights organizations will help decide whether Madonna is fit to adopt a Malawian toddler, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Andrew Nyirenda ruled in favor of a coalition of 67 Malawian human rights and child advocacy groups who want to be party to the assessment of the 48-year-old pop singer's fitness as a mother.
On Oct. 12, Nyirenda granted Madonna and her husband, filmmaker Guy Ritchie, an interim order allowing them to take initial custody of 14-month-old David Banda. The couple were allowed to take David to their London home.
Malawi regulations stipulate that prospective parents undergo an 18-to 24-month assessment period in the country.
The rights groups, saying they were concerned the government had cut legal corners to fast-track the adoption, said regulations must be followed to protect children.
"I must stress that all along we have not been against the adoption but we only wanted Malawi's adoption laws clarified and followed to the letter," said Justin Dzonzi, a lawyer and chairman of the Human Rights Consultative Commission. "Today's ruling gives us the opportunity to clear (up) some gray areas surrounding adoption laws in Malawi."
Nyirenda said in his written order that he saw no reason to refuse the rights groups' application.
"I believe the applicants mean well and this court will certainly benefit from the applicants' researched opinions," he said.
The organizations will now be part of the government's first assessment of Madonna and Ritchie, expected next May.
In a country ravaged by AIDS, an estimated 2 million children have lost one or both parents and hundreds are adopted by foreigners every year. Madonna's adoption bid coincided with her larger project to help Malawian orphans.
The human rights groups have argued that Malawi needs to ensure the adoption process cannot be exploited by pedophiles or child traffickers.