Vithika Yadav

If you don’t talk about sex, how will you end sexual violence? Human rights activist Vithika Yadav faces this dilemma time and again.

Vithika Yadav promotes sex education in her native India, in her words a “progressive country with a huge set of problems.” Among these problems are taboos surrounding sexual and reproductive issues.

Yadav looks back on a childhood filled with laughter, but like many other Indian women she also remembers being subjected to groping when she ventured outside. It was treated as “normal” for men to grab girls and women’s breasts, but the women were expected to feel shame. And in the conservative Indian society where Yadav grew up, issues like this were never discussed.

Vithika Yadav is proud of India’s vibrant culture and expansive history, but she pulls no punches about the country's problem with sexual exploitation. “Women,” she says “are bought and sold as commodities.”

It was in her college years that her eyes were opened to India’s rampant sexism. Yadav discovered that her peers, professors and others were openly discussing gender rights and other topics hushed by mainstream society.

The debating transformed her into an advocate for women’s and children’s rights and a fierce opponent of human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Today, Yadav openly calls for better sex education for India's youth. After more than nine years of tireless campaigning, she perceives a change in urban India’s sexual landscape. More and more, the need for sex education is being publicly discussed.

“Any movement takes time,” she says, but India has taken the first step by starting a conversation about sex. And conversation is the only way to break down the conservative taboo on talking about sexuality in the public arena, adds Yadav. “Unless we educate and talk to people about sex, sexuality and gender, things will never change.”

Stop sexual violence in India - talk about sex: Vithika Yadav at TEDxHagueAcademy

To Vithika Yadav, Love Really Does Matter


India is successfully breaking down taboos that prevent people from openly talking about sexuality, according to sex education advocate Vithika Yadav.

Yadav is the Head of Indian Operations for Love Matters, a web platform that challenges the idea that sex cannot be discussed in public. Created by Radio Netherlands Worldwide in 2011, the Love Matters web and mobile sites provide easy-to-access information and news on sexuality and sexual health for teenagers and young adults.  

Love Matters is making strides where others have stumbled, Yadav says. The Indian government created the Adolescent Education Program in 1999 and the National Population Education Projects in 2005. Both programs failed to capture national attention as sexual topics were addressed in an academic tone, with heavy emphasis on abstinence and monogamy.

The informal, non-judgemental approach taken by Love Matters is proving more effective, allowing people to anonymously engage in dialogue and asks questions about sex and sex-related issues. “Love Matters offers a lifeline to thousands of youths who, up until now, have faced a wall of silence,” says Yadav.

Progress is uneven in the patchwork of cultural and religious groups that make up India. However, the growing number of people seeking information about sexual issues illustrates nationwide progress, Yadav adds.

In her view, sex education is not a privilege reserved for certain countries, cultures or communities, but an inherent human right. Yadav names her father as a “lifelong inspiration” who instilled in her values of advocacy and volunteerism.