A Malawian court Friday turned down US popstar Madonna's attempt to adopt a second child from the impoverished southern African country.
A judge in the High Court in capital Lilongwe ruled against Madonna's bid to obtain custody of four-year-old Chifundo (Mercy) James, three years after her adoption of the infant David Banda.
An official in the ministry of information told DPA that the decision went against her because Madonna is a single mother.
Nelson Magombo, director of ministry of information, said Malawi's laws required that parental care be provided and that Madonna's single status, since her divorce last year from British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, did not comply.
Other news reports, including the BBC, said residency had also been a consideration.
Malawi's adoption laws require that prospective adoptive parents be resident in the country for 18-24 months.
The government had waived that requirement in granting the 50-year-old star and her ex-husband Guy Ritchie custody of David in 2006, when he was just 13 months old.
The courts had confirmed her adoption of David only last year.
The ruling is a blow to Madonna's attempts to have a sister for David from his country. She also has two biological children.
Madonna met the girl two years ago in the same Tikondane orphanage south of the commercial hub Blantyre, where she and then-husband Guy Ritchie met David.
That adoption was shrouded in controversy when it emerged that David's father was still alive and that the government had skirted its own rules on adoptions by non-residents in granting the couple direct custody of the infant.
Madonna's return to Malawi, where she has established a charity that supports orphans, has sparked fresh debate between ordinary Malawians and non-governmental organisations.
While most Malawians support her bid to give a child a better life, civil society organisations have accused the pop star of using her influence to speed the adoption and manipulate the country's weak adoption laws.
Nearly half of Malawi's population of 13 million lives on less than a $1 a day. The United Nations children's agency UNICEF estimates half of the country's around 1 million orphans have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.