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Bali airport
Ventocilla was arrested at Bali airport upon arrival on August 6Image: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images

Transgender activist dies after arrest in Bali

Elizabeth Schumacher
August 25, 2022

His family says he was arrested on trumped-up charges and became a victim of police brutality and transphobia. The prominent activist had traveled to Indonesia for his honeymoon.


Rodrigo Ventocilla Ventosilla, a trans activist from Peru, has died in police custody on the Indonesian island of Bali. On Thursday, local officers issued a statement denying their involvement in the death of the Harvard graduate student.

"Ventocilla, a transgender man and a prominent trans rights activist, was pronounced dead five days after he was detained for alleged drug possession upon his arrival in Bali, where he was traveling on a honeymoon vacation with his spouse," the Harvard Crimson newspaper wrote.

Ventocilla, 32, was arrested earlier in August at Bali's airport for what local police said was cannabis paraphernalia and drug possession. In a statement on social media, his family said the items were an herb grinder and prescription medication he took for his mental health.

His family said Ventocilla was mistreated in jail, and died of "police violence ... racial discrimination and transphobia."

Ventocilla's family also took aim at Peru's consular services in Indonesia, which, they said, did nothing to help his spouse, Sebastian Marallano, as he sought to free Ventocilla from custody and later, deal with his death.

'Police obstructed access to the hospital'

Police spokesman Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto told Reuters news agency on Thursday that Ventocilla died on August 11, five days after he was taken into custody. He was rushed to the hospital, the police said, after ingesting drugs and then suffered a "failure of bodily functions."

Officers told media that they would launch an investigation, but no more information about such a probe has been made public.

"The Indonesian police obstructed access to the hospital at all times to the lawyers hired by the family, as well as the Harvard students who came to their aid," his relatives said.

Activist and scholar

Ventocilla was the founder Diversidades Trans Masculina, a Peruvian trans rights organization. He was also working toward a master's degree in Public Administration in International Development at Harvard's prestigious Kennedy School of Government.

Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf issued a statement saying he "supports the family's call for an immediate and thorough investigation and for public release of all relevant information."

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