There has been much recent debate about women’s rights and their relation to human rights. Debates about domestic violence in Vanuatu are situated in this global frame but also in a regional and historical context dominated by the relation between kastom (tradition) and Christianity. This article depicts the dynamics of a conference on Violence and the Family in Vanuatu held in Port Vila in 1994, in terms of the competing claims of universal human rights and cultural relativism. The allegedly western character of human rights which focus on the individual and civil and political rights is often contrasted with the non-western stress on collectivities and the rights to economic development and self-determination. These sorts of ideological oppositions in international politics reverberate in domestic politics as well, and especially in those which situate women and men as subjects in conflict, as they are in many domestic disputes.