Transgender Harvard scholar dies in police custody whereas on honeymoon in Indonesia

A transgender advocate and Harvard graduate scholar died in police custody this month whereas on his honeymoon within the Indonesian vacationer island of Bali. 

Rodrigo Ventosilla, a 32-year-old transmasculine particular person from Peru, and his husband, Sebastián Marallano, had been detained Aug. 7 by customs police on the Bali airport for unlawful possession of marijuana, Peru’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs mentioned in an announcement. 

Two days after the arrest, Ventosilla was taken to the hospital, the place he died on Aug. 11 attributable to “failure of bodily features,” in response to police spokesperson Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto, who added that Ventosilla turned sick after taking treatment that had not been confiscated by authorities. 

The households of Ventosilla and Marallano, who has since returned to Peru, have accused authorities in Bali of “police violence … racial discrimination and transphobia,” in response to their assertion on Instagram. They’re additionally alleging that Ventosilla was not supplied entry to legal professionals, his household or his accomplice whereas in police custody. 

“It needs to be famous that always the Indonesian police blocked entry to each the legal professionals employed by the household, and Harvard college students who attended their support. The household was NEVER capable of talk or know Rodrigo’s well being/prognosis,”  the household wrote in an announcement. 

Nevertheless, in an announcement Wednesday, Peru’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs mentioned they haven’t discovered proof of “racial discrimination and transphobia.” Ventosilla’s household is looking for a extra thorough investigation. 

Kyle Knight, a senior researcher on well being and LGBTQ rights at Human Rights Watch, a world nongovernmental group, mentioned it’s disturbing that authorities prevented “legal professionals and activists and his accomplice from attempting to get entry to him. That’s indicative of one thing very suspicious.” 

Knight added: “It’s fairly clear from the studies that we learn, issues went as badly as they may have.”

Ventosilla’s demise follows a rising effort to roll again LGBTQ rights in Indonesia, Knight added. 

“Since 2016, there was a government-driven effort to slander, stigmatize and render insecure LGBT individuals throughout the nation,” he mentioned, citing Human Rights Watch studies from 2018 and 2016. 

Bali is a recognized protected haven for queer and trans Indonesians, he mentioned. Nevertheless, he added, that modified final yr when LGBTQ vacationers started selling the island as a queer-friendly vacationer vacation spot and supplied recommendation on keep away from Covid-19 restrictions. 

It comes at no shock, he mentioned, that authorities escalated the arrest on this location. 

“Rodrigo’s case falls into a few completely different overlapping patterns, together with Indonesia’s drug legal guidelines are very, very strict and really intense,” he mentioned, including that “the police love nabbing foreigners, significantly in vacationer hotspots like Bali.”  

Previous to his demise, Ventosilla was pursuing a grasp’s diploma in public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy College. In an announcement Wednesday, the college mentioned  Ventosilla’s household had raised “very critical questions that deserve clear and correct solutions.” The trans advocacy group that Ventosilla based, Diversidades Trans Masculinas, can be calling for justice. 

“We name on all human rights organizations, feminists, transfeminists, unions, grassroots organizations and residents on the whole to combat for the justice that Rodrigo deserves,” the group wrote in an announcement on Fb.  “His demise shouldn’t go unpunished. When a trans particular person dies, they by no means die!” 

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Reuters contributed.