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Monday, October 16, 2006

Perhaps there is a better cause for Malawi Activists?

Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie are all set to adopt a baby from a Malawi orphanage. The couple spent most of their time during their visit in Malawi visiting orphanages and meeting charity workers to help make visible the 900,000 orphans in a nation of 13 million people. They also pledged to donate $3 million to a campaign for these children, many of whom are infected with AIDS. But human rights activists in Malawi are infuriated. Eye of the Child, a child advocacy group, requested an injunction on behalf of about five dozen non-governmental organizations. "They (government) haven't followed the law. What has happened is a shortcut," referring to the expedited adoption process to a non-Malawi resident that the Malawi government granted the couple. I would suspect that the time of these child advocacy groups could be better spent focusing on other causes, reforms and strategies rather than fighting the adoption of a one year old orphan by these (now) British parents.

Posted by Orly Lobel on October 16, 2006 at 11:30 AM | Permalink


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My argument might be fortified with an appreciation of Sunstein's elaboration of 'the expressive function of law,' that is, 'the function of law in expressing social values and encouraging social norms to move in particular directions' (See his Free Markets and Social Justice, 1997).

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Oct 16, 2006 8:49:23 PM

I beg to respectfully differ with you Orly.

I think there is an important principle at stake here. If Malawian law does not allow non-residents to adopt, why should an exception be granted Madonna and Guy Ritchie? Because of their wealth and celebrity status? From the outside looking in one can easily draw the conclusion that they used their celebrity status and philanthropic power to 'buy' the baby in a manner contrary to law, a form of soft extortion. Sometimes the ends do not justify the means. In not a few African states the rule of law is precarious or nominal at best (corruption and graft often culprits), and setting precedent as to its proper function would seem to be a critical if not paramount concern. It therefore appears that Eye of the Child and the other NGOs have the big picture in view, one that does not necessarily preclude their 'focusing on other causes, reforms and strategies' (i.e., they're perfectly capable of 'multi-tasking').

I'm curious what others think about this.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Oct 16, 2006 8:23:35 PM

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