By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - Madonna is "not skirting any legal issues" in her bid to adopt a young girl from Malawi, her spokeswoman said on Tuesday amid criticism the U.S. singer is receiving special treatment in the southeast African country.
Malawi civil society groups have said they plan to oppose Madonna’s attempted adoption of four-year-old Mercy James, while a prominent local human rights activist said the move would amount to child trafficking.
Madonna appeared in court in Malawi on Monday seeking to adopt Mercy. The case was adjourned until April 3.
"The adoption process for Mercy began over a year ago when Madonna met her on one of her visits to Malawi. The connection was instant and profound," spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg said in a statement emailed to Reuters. "Madonna’s desire to adopt Mercy is totally heartfelt."
"She is not skirting any legal issues in her application to adopt this child and is looking to provide a loving family environment and the best education and health care possible for a child who has been in an orphanage since her birth," said Rosenberg.
She said Madonna has "tremendous support" in Malawi for the adoption, including from President Bingu Wa Mutharika.
Critics had accused the government of giving Madonna, one of the world’s most successful performing artists, special treatment when she adopted her three-year-old Malawian son David Banda, saying it skirted laws that ban nonresidents from adopting children.
Rosenberg said the singer has taken David to visit his biological father in Malawi. Madonna took custody of David in October 2006. A court formally approved the adoption in May 2008.
"Madonna is committed to maintaining an ongoing relationship with David’s Malawian roots," Rosenberg said.
Madonna also has two biological children — daughter Lourdes, 12, and son Rocco, 8. (Editing by Vicki Allen)