Family Watch International

Family Watch International is an Arizona-based organization that is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-comprehensive sex education—all under the guise of supporting what it calls “family values.” The organization works both domestically and internationally, with its strongest presence at the United Nations (UN), where it co-founded and chairs the UN Family Rights Caucus.

Summary Extremism Key Players And Related Groups Influence


Family Watch International (FWI) is an Arizona-based organization that advocates for anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQIA+ and abstinence-only sex education legislation both domestically and worldwide, all under the guise of what it calls “family values.” FWI was founded in Gilbert, Arizona, in 1999 as Global Helping to Advance Women & Children (Global HAWC) by anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-abortion activist Sharon Slater, who remains the organization’s president to this day. Slater was inspired to start the group after attending a conference put on by fellow hate group World Congress of Families.

Since its founding, Global HAWC has changed its name to the current FWI, but its mission remains the same—advocating for what it refers to as “policies and programs that strengthen the family, protect the best interest of children, and provide the best outcomes for women and men.” Truthfully, its actions support anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-comprehensive sex education (CSE) efforts—all of which harm families and children. Some of FWI’s dangerous policy positions include the “natural family”—consisting of one man and one woman who each fulfill gendered roles—as the fundamental unit of society,” abstinence as the only way to avoid “negative outcomes to individuals, families, and society,” support for so-called “conversion therapy” and the belief in a “right to life before as well as after birth.” The organization has put out several problematic policy briefs, language guidance and “educational” resources on these and other anti-rights topics.

For an organization with a relatively small budget and staff, FWI concerningly wields powerful influence. The organization operates both domestically and internationally, but its influence is most felt at the UN, where it co-founded and chairs the UN Family Rights Caucus, and where it maintains Economic and Social Council consultative status. Additionally, FWI regularly convenes anti-rights actors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international governmental bodies through conferences and training to further spread its hateful ideas. This has been particularly true throughout Africa, the region where FWI maintains its strongest presence and connections. Domestically, FWI is well connected and influential in its home state of Arizona, where it has collaborated with legislators, including the Speaker of the House, primarily on anti-CSE efforts.

As its founder and longtime president, Slater has led the organization’s backward efforts, and has done and said many disturbing things. Slater has referred to LGBT individuals as diseased and “more likely to engage in pedophilia.” Slater has developed many relationships with anti-LGBTQIA+ leaders across Africa, most notably with Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who supported that country’s “Kill the Gays” bill. Most recently, FWI has brought on Laura Cunliffe as Executive Director and Vice President of Policy. Cunliffe worked in the Trump administration, including as Chief of Staff for the U.S. Mission to the UN, deepening FWI’s ties to the UN, and bringing former President Trump’s administration in direct contact with the organization.


FWI’s Focus Is Opposing Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE)

FWI Falsely Claims That CSE “Encourages Risky Behavior.” “We work to protect the health and innocence of children by exposing the negative impact on children of sexually explicit school curricula and media, including pornography. We expose the deceptive and harmful nature of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and how these school-based programs sexualize young children, encourage them to participate in risky sexual behavior, and undermine parental rights.” [FWI, accessed 9/29/21]

In Contrast To CSE, Which Helps Accurately And Safely Inform Young Adults About Sex And Sexuality, FWI Supports Abstinence-Only Education, A Practice Proven To Be Unhelpful And Dangerous To Young Adults. “FWI supports policies and programs that encourage abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. We recognize that any sexual relations outside of marriage—whether premarital, extramarital, heterosexual or homosexual—generally bring negative outcomes to individuals, families, and society.” [FWI, accessed 9/29/21]

FWI Turned This Into An Entire Misinformation Campaign—StopCSE—Which Produces And Spreads Dangerous And Inaccurate Videos, “Toolkits” And “Factsheets.” [StopCSE, accessed 10/23/21]

[StopCSE, accessed 10/23/21]

FWI Launched The Empowered Youth Coalition, Which Focuses On Getting Young People Involved In Spreading Dangerous Misinformation About Sex And Sexuality. [Empowered Youth Coalition, 5/15/21]

[FWI, accessed 10/24/21]

FWI Has Taken These Efforts To The UN, Where It Has Coalesced With Official Delegations To Oppose CSE. “Further, anti-rights actors at the UN are uniting across national and regional lines, and across sectors. Specifically, we have observed strengthening links between regressive civil society, religiously-defined intergovernmental entities, conservatively-oriented States and regional blocs. The coalition forged between the Holy See, ultra-conservative Civil Society Organizations, such as Family Watch International, and Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to oppose comprehensive sexuality education as a component of sexual rights is but one example.” [Rights At Risk, 2017]

FWI Is Campaigning Against CSE In At Least 10 Countries Across Africa. “Another US group, Family Watch International (FWI), is campaigning to ban comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in at least 10 African countries, including through its ‘Stop CSE’ website which hosts petitions against sex education. Family Watch International has, over this decade, been training high-level African politicians how to campaign against sex education and LGBT rights. They and their supporters claim that CSE is ‘abortion, promiscuity, and LGBT rights education’ and want it replaced by abstinence-only sex education.” [The Herald Ghana, 10/30/20]

Public Records Obtained By Equity Forward Show Sharon Slater And FWI Working With Arizona State Legislators—Including Speaker Rusty Bowers—To Oppose CSE Efforts In The State. [Records Shown Below]

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FWI Peddles Sexist And Homophobic Narratives About What It Calls The “Natural Family”

FWI Co-Founded And Chairs The UN Family Rights Caucus, Which Promotes The “Natural Family” As The “Fundamental Unit Of Society.” “The mission of the United Nations Family Rights Caucus is to protect and promote the natural family as the fundamental unit of society as called for in Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.” [UN Family Rights Caucus, 2014]

By “Natural Family,” FWI Means The Marriage Of One Man And One Woman… “We support and promote natural marriage between one man and one woman. Social science research has conclusively proven that a strong family based on marriage between a man and a woman is the best environment to protect, nourish and develop individuals. This family structure provides significantly better outcomes for individuals and societies than any alternative structure.” [FWI, accessed 9/29/21]

…In Which Each Partner Must Serve In Sexist Gendered Roles. “We recognize and promote the essential contributions and the irreplaceable roles of both mothers and fathers in the lives of their children and to society. Research also shows that mothers and fathers, by nature of their genders, make unique contributions to the development of their children and that these contributions cannot be replaced by two ‘parents’ of the same sex. If society sanctions marriages that make it impossible for children to be raised by either their mother or father, children suffer.” [FWI, accessed 9/29/21]

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FWI Spreads Homophobic And Transphobic Ideologies, Including So-Called “Conversion Therapy” And Dangerous Efforts To Block Gender-Affirming Care For Trans Youth

FWI Advocates For So-Called “Conversion Therapy” For “Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction Or Gender Confusion.” “We urge compassion for individuals who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion and we promote and defend the availability of therapies that can help them deal with their conditions. It is our position that there is never any justification for violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and we opposed laws that provide harsh punishment for individuals based on these conditions.” [FWI, accessed 9/29/21]

Public Records Obtained By Equity Forward Show That FWI President Sharon Slater Lobbied Arizona Speaker Of The House Rusty Bowers For Legislation That Would Block Gender-Affirming Healthcare For Trans Youth.

[Equity Forward public records received 3/16/20]

[Equity Forward public records received 3/16/20]

In Addition To 18 Existing Harmful And Inaccurate Anti-Trans Videos Already Produced, FWI’s Website Shows 15 Anti-Trans “Videos Under Production,” Meaning An Even Harsher Focus On Anti-Trans Advocacy Could Be Coming Soon. [FWI, accessed 10/23/21]

[FWI, accessed 10/23/21]

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FWI Maintains A Well-Connected Presence At The UN, Its Main Target

FWI Maintains Economic and Social Council Consultative Status At The UN, Which Slater Uses To Access And Convene UN Leaders, Putting On Events Where She Spreads Misinformation And Bigotry. “FWI’s Economic and Social Council consultative status allows Slater to meet with U.N. leaders and put on events, like a 2011 conference where delegates were supplied with ‘scientific studies and statistics reports on cutting-edge family issues’ to help them negotiate ‘pro-family outcomes’ and, according to FWI’s newsletter, reveal to attendees ‘how the U.N. system is being manipulated by sexual rights activists to promote the sexual agenda.’ This is one of FWI’s primary tactics: peddling pseudoscientific research to U.N. delegates in order to steer policymaking.” [SPLC, accessed 9/15/21]

FWI Co-Founded And Chairs The Anti-Abortion, Anti-LGBTQIA+, Anti-CSE UN Family Rights Caucus. “UN Family Rights Caucus: Family Watch co-founded and currently chairs the UN Family Rights Caucus (UNFRC), a widely respected and highly effective coalition of pro-family advocates and organizations, representing more than four million people across the globe. … the Caucus is ‘dedicated to defending and protecting the traditional family at the UN’ and ‘has been keenly involved with the recent rise of ‘protection of the family’ resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council.’” [FWI, accessed 9/20/21]

The Holy See’s Official Delegation To The UN Has Formed An Anti-Rights Coalition With FWI And Has Used FWI Talking Points To Oppose Abortion And CSE. “The Holy See regularly attempts to set up a ‘battle of rights,’ such as presenting abortion rights as in opposition to the right to life, and setting child and youth rights to comprehensive sexuality education against ‘parental rights.’ These approaches echo the talking points and negotiating techniques of such anti-right civil society training materials as Family Watch International’s UN Resource Guide.” [Rights At Risk, 2017]

Given These Realities, FWI Has Been Called One Of The Seven Most Influential Organizations In The World At Advancing This So-Called “Family Values” Agenda. “A recent report, ‘Rights at Risk,’ identified Family Watch as one of the seven most influential organizations in the world in advancing pro-life and pro-family policies and in thwarting the radical sexual rights agenda at the UN. Interestingly, this report comes from a coalition of some of the most powerful organizations, including some with multi-billion dollar budgets that support and develop policies that undermine the traditional family.” [FWI, accessed 9/20/21]

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Public Records Obtained By Equity Forward Show Close Relationship Between FWI And Influential Arizona State Legislators Working To Oppose CSE

FWI President Sharon Slater Worked With Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen To Oppose CSE In Arizona Public Schools.

  • Allen wrote an op-ed pitching Anti-CSE Senate Bill 1082 using the below bullet points, approved by anti-abortion advocates Lisa Fink and Sharon Slater

[Equity Forward public records received 3/2/20]

  • In August 2019, Allen notified her colleagues she would host Slater for a discussion on sex-ed:

[Equity Forward public records received 3/2/20]

  • Slater sent an email to Allen’s administrative assistant calling to attention a Planned Parenthood sex-ed response form for Arizona public schools—and suggesting they send out a Freedom of Information Act request to the schools to see what their responses were:

[Equity Forward public records received 3/2/20]

Slater Forwarded An Email To Bowers Stating That She Had Fed Material To Liberty Counsel, A Legal Firm Disputing CSE In Arizona.

[Equity Forward public records received 3/16/20]

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers Hosted An August 2019 Meeting With FWI President Sharon Slater With Other “Friendly” Legislators And Members Of the Protect Arizona Coalition.

[Equity Forward public records received 3/16/20]

Bowers And State Senator Sylvia Allen Spoke At FWI’s “Protect Arizona Children Event” In September 2019.

[Equity Forward public records received 3/16/20]

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Internationally, FWI Is Most Active In Africa, Where It Has Connections With Several Leaders In Spreading Anti-LGBTQIA+ And Anti-CSE Ideologies

FWI Has Been Training High-Ranking African Political, Religious And Civic Leaders For At Least A Decade. “For at least a decade, African ambassadors to the United Nations have been invited to FWI’s annual training programme in the US. The focus of the training is on opposing both LGBT rights and CSE … FWI’s training for African leaders also includes practical sessions on how to negotiate at the UN.” [openDemocracy, 10/27/20]

FWI And Its Tactics Have Been Behind A Number Of Anti-LGBTQIA+ And Anti-CSE Campaign In Various African Countries. “In Africa, several countries have retreated from a commitment to the UN-approved comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) because of spirited opposition from the religious right. In the runup to Ghana’s 2020 election campaign, a religious lobby constituted itself against what it termed ‘Comprehensive Satanic Education’ – primarily because it allegedly promoted LGBTQ+ rights. … A similar anti-CSE campaign was successful in Zambia, and is gaining ground in populous Ethiopia, too. Like those in Latin America and eastern Europe, these campaigns used materials and tactics generated by ‘pro-family’ movements in the US, primarily Family Watch International (FWI) and the World Congress of Families (WCF). FWI, which is based in Arizona, and led the anti-LGBTQ+ education campaign there, has provided the muscle to the Ghana and Ethiopia campaigns in particular.” [The Guardian, 6/22/21]

FWI, Along With Its Partner World Congress Of Families, Has Been Cited As A Driving Force In Spreading Anti-LGBTQIA+ And Anti-CSE Movements Throughout Africa. “Jedidah Maina, executive director of the Kenyan NGO Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health, says that between 2010 and 2015, the anti-LGBT movement in Africa was ‘largely white evangelicals from the US, such as Family Watch International and the World Congress of Families.’ But she says, ‘Now it is morphing with new African actors. The conversation is the same but the actors have changed. These organisations are all fronted by Africans but the messaging is the same, especially in regard to CSE, which they claim sexualises children, encourages them to have sex and turns them gay.’” [Daily Maverick, 10/27/20]

FWI Organized A Coalition In South Africa To Oppose The Country’s Proposed CSE Syllabus. “In South Africa, several organisations recently launched a campaign against the new curriculum called the Protect Children South Africa Coalition. According to organisers Family Watch International, the stated purpose was to stop the ‘exploitation’ of children, which they allege occurs through CSE programmes. Family Watch joined up with its Cape Town-based partner, the Family Policy Institute, to create the movement.” [Mail & Guardian, 11/10/19]

FWI President Sharon Slater Has Developed Ties With High-Profile Anti-LGBTQIA+ African Leaders, Including Martin Ssempa. “Slater, along with a network of other religious fundamentalist organizations active in Africa, spreads her homophobic, anti-choice, abstinence-only agenda by claiming that the U.N.’s push for equal rights for LGBT people and women is part of a Western neo-imperialistic project. She’s forged close ties over the years with virulently antigay African activists like Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa – an enthusiastic supporter of the country’s “Kill the Gays” bill – who have helped her lead campaigns to oppose the decriminalization of homosexuality.” [SPLC, accessed 9/15/21]

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FWI Trains And Convenes Other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) And Government Bodies At Its “Global Policy Forum” Where Many Anti-Abortion Ideologues Have Spoken

FWI Trains NGOs And Civil Society Leaders. “Training Of And Partnering With Other NGOs: Family Watch trains civil society leaders around the world on how to successfully address controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, gender confusion, comprehensive sexuality education, and other issues affecting the family.” [FWI, accessed 9/20/21]

FWI Holds Secretive, “Closed-Door Events” For These Organizations and Their Leaders. “Family Leadership Summits: Family Watch holds closed-door events for other NGO leaders from around the world, equipping them with pro-family language, tools, and strategies on emerging issues of concern.” [FWI, accessed 9/20/21]

FWI Has Privately Briefed A Number Of UN Delegate Organizations, Including The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), The African Group And The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation. “UN Government Briefings: FWI has been invited to give private briefings to the UN delegates in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African Group, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to prepare delegates in these blocs to protect the family in further UN negotiations.” [FWI, accessed 9/20/21]

FWI Puts On Large Gatherings, Such As At Its Annual “Global Policy Forum,” Where Many Prominent Anti-Abortion Extremists From The Trump Administration, UN And NGOs Have Spoken.

[Equity Forward public records received 3/16/20]

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