Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, credits WCF with her politicization: “Before attending my first World Congress of Families in Geneva in 1999, I had never been involved in a cause,” she wrote. “That experience changed the direction of my life, as I learned about the assaults in almost every area of family life and was instilled with the hope that if we all worked together, we could effectively stop many of these attacks.” Slater co-founded Family Watch International (FWI) later that year.
Slater is an aggressive anti-LGBTI, anti-choice Mormon from Arizona who presents herself as a humanitarian and advocate for women, children, and families; however, her advocacy is exclusively dedicated to advancing the rights of those who align with her restrictive definition of “family” – which is limited to heterosexual, married, procreative couples. Through her work at the United Nations and her networking across the African continent, she exerts substantial international influence on issues such as family planning, HIV/AIDS, sexuality education, and LGBTI rights.
Slater is the organization’s current president. Based in Arizona, FWI maintains a small budget and low domestic profile, but it is highly active internationally and at the UN, where it operates under the name Global Helping to Advance Women and Children (Global HAWC). Slater and FWI idealize the nuclear family as the antidote to societal ills and promote abstinence as the key to curtailing abortion and ending the spread of HIV/AIDS.
At the UN, Slater exploits FWI’s official consultative status to limit the advancement of comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services that include abortion, and basic rights and protections for LGBTI people. She also uses her UN ties to burnish her reputation as an “authority” on the institution, and to subvert its work. As the keynote speaker at a Nigerian Bar Association conference in 2011, for example, she reportedly urged delegates to resist pressure from the UN to decriminalize homosexuality. She also said that they risked losing their religious and parental rights for endorsing “fictitious sexual rights,” including the right to engage in same-sex relationships without facing imprisonment. The same year, Slater hosted the first annual Global Family Policy Forum in Phoenix, which brought together UN delegates from around the world to equip them with the language, tools, and strategies of the U.S. Christian Right’s agenda.
Slater has compared homosexuality to “incest, sexual abuse, and rape . . . drug dealing, assaults, and other crimes,” and she also seeks to promote the idea that homosexuality can be cured. This stance attracted the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a prominent “reparative therapy” organization, which gave her a platform during its annual conference in 2011, and has invited her to present at their 2017 conference as well. (See “Ex-gay Ministries” in this section for more about reparative therapy.)
Slater’s personal and professional connections in Africa are extensive. She has forged ties in Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, and Swaziland, promoting abstinence-only programs and a fidelity-in-marriage curriculum wherever she goes. In Uganda, she has cultivated relationships with Pastor Martin Ssempa and First Lady Janet Museveni, both of whom oppose the use of condoms and were key players behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009.
For more details, see American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.