Sharon Slater is an aggressive anti-LGBTQ, antichoice activist who presents herself as a humanitarian and advocate for women, children, and families. 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, and LGBTQ rights.
Slater, a Mormon, co-founded Family Watch International (FWI) in 1999 and is the organization’s current president. Based in Gilbert, AZ, 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 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, a prominent “reparative therapy” organization, which gave her a platform during its annual conference in 2012.
Slater’s personal and professional connections in Africa are extensive. During her time as President of United Families International (UFI), she forged ties in Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Kenya, while promoting abstinence-only programs and a fidelity-in-marriage curriculum. (Similar to FWI, UFI works to defend “family, marriage, life, religion, parents and national sovereignty,” focusing largely on the UN.) 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.