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Opposition to Banda adoption grows

Thursday, October 19, 2006

London (Reuters): Chris Atkins was not much older than David Banda, the baby Madonna is seeking to adopt, when she was brought half-way across the world to become part of a white British family.Coming from Hong Kong, where she was abandoned as a newborn on the steps of a tenement building, to a London suburb, she says she was given the love, protection and opportunity she may never otherwise have had.But she says the psychological price cross-border adoptees pay for their new lives is high, and warns that celebrities like Madonna should not believe that huge wealth and status will be enough to cancel it out. ''People need to understand that the losses for the adoptees are immense and lifelong,'' Atkins, a founder member of the Transnational and Transracial Adoption Group (www.ttag.org.uk), told Reuters in an interview.

''The price many of us have paid is a lifelong struggle to gain a sense of belonging, to attain some kind of identity. And that lifelong struggle is tiring. It's tiring being ignored, and it's tiring being expected to say thank you all the time.'' Atkins describes how ''acutely embarrassed'' she feels when Chinese people address her in Cantonese and she cannot answer. ''They call people like me bananas -- I'm yellow on the outside and white on the inside,'' she says. As the world's media tracked the progress of baby David Banda from an orphanage in his poverty-stricken home country of Malawi to the opulence of Madonna's London mansion, few could deny the material benefits which lie ahead of him.

But Nick Pendry, an Indian transracial adoptee now living in London, says he has ''anxieties'' about the boy's future. ''I worry about him being taken from his primary cultural context ... and how that gap will be bridged,'' he told Reuters. Pendry, whose Indian mother came from Kenya to Britain while pregnant and gave him up for adoption at six weeks old, says it is vital to have more children adopted into their own cultures. Brought up in a white middle-class family in south west London, he too appreciates the love and advantage he was given, but says he has struggled with his identity.Now 34, Pendry lives in London with his white wife and two children, and spends most of his time with white people but says he always feels that race sets him apart.

''At the same time, I have Indian friends and Indian family who I am in touch with, but I don't have a shared language, a shared history, a shared culture with them...''It leaves me in a kind of no-man's land of not being one or the other, and not really finding anywhere to fit.'' Madonna issued a statement yesterday defending her efforts to adopt the Malawian baby, saying she wanted to save one child from a life of poverty in a country with a million orphans.Both Pendry and Atkins are eager not to condemn the American pop star's actions outright, but express concern about how much long-term thought she has put in.They urged Madonna and those like her to focus on improving the chances for orphans in their own countries or cultures. ''If money and resources had been put into finding an Indian family to adopt me, then I have no doubt I would have had a different and more positive experience in terms of cultural and racial connectedness,'' Pendry says.''The assumption is always that adoption into a white family is better than what the child would have had, but there is little thought given to how the alternative could be better.''

Malawi rights groups vowed to press ahead with a legal bid to stop Madonna from adopting a local one-year old boy, even though the child's family have given their consent to the pop diva.Madonna has angered rights groups with her plans to adopt young David Banda, who left his native country on Tuesday for the singer's home in London after she was granted a temporary adoption by Malawi authorities.

Banda will stay with Madonna for 18 months, during which time his progress will be monitored by Malawi officials before final approval can be given for him to join her family. Madonna yesterday said she wants to give Banda a better life than he would have had at the orphanage where he lived in Malawi but activists accuse her of using her fame to bypass Malawi's laws, which ban adoption by foreigners.Justin Dzonzi, a lawyer for rights groups pushing for a court order against the interim adoption granted to Madonna, said they plan to approach the courts next week.''We will meet the judge sometime next week and proceed with an injunction pending the process of adoption granted to Madonna last week by the High Court,'' Dzonzi said.

Yohane Banda said activists had approached him on Tuesday to back their objections but he believed Madonna was able to give his son a better life.''This is our child and we made the decision that Madonna takes him because we wish him a good life. No one will stop that because they cannot look after him if he is returned,'' he said.David's grandmother Asianati Mwale, 56, condemned organizations that are pressing for the court to suspend the interim order.''Where were they when I and my son were trying to get someone to look after this child? Do they even know what we have had to go through to save the life of David. We trust that Madonna will look after our child well and he will have a better life,'' she said. A senior member of one of the groups that wants to stop the adoption said that the family's approval weakened their court case.

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